Family-man Mickelson shoots 67 at U.S. Open

By Rex HoggardJune 13, 2013, 10:12 pm

ARDMORE, Pa. – Fourteen years ago this Sunday the late Payne Stewart took Phil Mickelson’s head in his hands and offered the ultimate consolation, telling the left-hander that what he was about to experience was much more important than what he had just lost.

The next day, Amy Mickelson gave birth to the couple’s first child, Amanda.

On Wednesday, Phil Mickelson was at home in San Diego to attend Amanda’s eighth-grade graduation, before jumping on a red-eye flight back to Philadelphia to make his 7:11 a.m. ET tee time at this week’s U.S. Open.

This time, however, he’s hoping to be both, an Open champion and a good father.

The former was easy enough, at least in Lefty’s mind.

“(Amanda) told me that it's fine. Stay, it's the U.S. Open, I know how much you care about it,” said Mickelson, who turns 43 on Sunday. “I told her that I want to be there. I don't want to miss that. I don't want to miss her speech. I don't want to miss her graduation. She spent nine years at that school. And she's worked very hard and I'm very proud of her.”

As for the latter, that seemed to come easy as well despite a lengthy weather delay on Day 1 at Merion and even lengthier rough.

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Following a three-putt bogey at his first hole (No. 11), Mickelson was flawless the rest of the way, finishing his round with two birdies over his last four holes and, more importantly at an Open, converting every par save coming down the stretch.

Not bad for a guy who boarded his G-5 at 8:15 p.m. PT on Wednesday, arrived in Philadelphia just past 4 a.m., and was at Merion by 5:30 to prepare for his opening effort.

If the U.S. Open is golf’s toughest test, as many players contend, Lefty added a degree of difficulty with his cross-country odyssey that wouldn’t appear to be a recipe for success. But as he did 14 years ago at Pinehurst when he lost to Stewart by a stroke, Mickelson put family first.

In 1999, Mickelson was prepared to fly home to be with his wife even if that meant giving up his chance of winning the most important title that has eluded him. It was the same mentality that sent him home on Monday, and he figured that tactically he knew everything he needed to know about the course.

“I got all my work done on Merion last (Monday and Tuesday).  I knew exactly how I wanted to play the golf course,” said Mickelson, who initially intended to fly home on Tuesday after a practice round but changed his plans when Merion was soaked by a storm on Monday. “I didn't feel I needed more time at Merion, what I needed was to get my game sharp, to get my touch sharp.”

For a player who is often accused of overthinking things, his decision to forgo the normal major championship preparation seems to have hit all the notes, at least through 18 wet holes.

That’s not to say Mickelson has entirely abandoned his normal mind games. The same guy who played one U.S. Open with no driver in the bag and a Masters with two drivers took it a step further this week, benching the Phranken-wood (a hybrid fairway wood that replaced his driver this year) for an additional wedge.

It was hard to argue with the idea of trading extra yardage for additional loft late Thursday. Mickelson salvaged his momentum with a par save at No. 5 from 12 feet after driving into a creek and from 7 feet at the sixth after missing another green.

“I think in the U.S. Open, par saves are as big or bigger than birdies because you don't really expect birdies,” Mickelson said. “Those two par putts, those are the momentum builders that are important in the rounds at a U.S. Open. They actually give you more of a boost than birdies do.”

Well that and some caffeine at the turn when the red-eye began catching up with him. After a few hours of sleep on the flight from the West Coast, Mickelson managed about an hour’s sleep before he headed to the course Thursday and the three-hour weather delay was a much-needed intermission.

For Mickelson, however, the U.S. Open is its own energy boost. The five-time runner-up is defined almost as much by his Open misses (see Winged Foot, 2006) as he is by his other major triumphs.

His affinity for the Open was particularly evident when he paused to tell USGA executive director Mike Davis as he rounded past the iconic Merion clubhouse midway through his round, “this is my favorite Open setup ever.”

But for Lefty the Open is a love that has been painfully requited from Pinehurst to Bethpage.

“If I'm able, and I believe I will, if I'm able to ultimately win a U.S. Open, I would say that it's great,” he said. “Because I will have had ... let's say a win and five seconds. But if I never get that win, then it would be a bit heartbreaking.”

During that very public moment on Pinehurst’s 18th green in 1999, Stewart also told Mickelson that he will get another chance to win his U.S. Open. That he would also get plenty of chances to be a good father didn’t need to be mentioned.

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Football coach hates golf: Don't need practice swearing

By Jason CrookApril 20, 2018, 10:15 pm

Some football coaches are a little more talkative than others. On one side of the spectrum, there's Bill Belichick. On the other sits Washington State football coach Mike Leach.

Leach always delivers the goods, and when asked recently if he liked golf, he didn't hold back:

As wrong as the 57-year-old is on the topic (golf is awesome), the man makes some hilarious points:

• “It’s boring. I don’t care where that ball goes.”

• "Golfers are always practicing their swing. But you know what I never did? I never practice fishing in my living room.”

• "They'll line up over the ball and they'll say they're going to do something that you can't do with a sniper rifle and a scope, but they're going to do it with a stick and a ball."

• “Golf’s pretty much for people that don’t swear effectively enough or need practice. And so there are people that need golf, and I don’t think I do.”

So in conclusion, it's confirmed: Mike Leach - not a golf guy.

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Quiros takes 1-shot lead in Morocco

By Associated PressApril 20, 2018, 8:22 pm

RABAT, Morocco - Alvaro Quiros shot a solid 2-under 70 in windy conditions to push into a one-shot lead after two rounds of the Trophee Hassan II in Morocco on Friday.

Quiros fought the elements, carding seven birdies and five bogeys to move to 7 under overall and take the outright lead at the halfway point of the European Tour event.

The Spaniard was one clear of Andrew Dodt, who moved into contention with a 4-under 68 at the Royal Golf Dar Es Salam course. Dodt dropped two shots in his first six holes but the Australian recovered from that shaky start to collect four birdies and an eagle.

Full-field scores from the Trophee Hassan II

Erik van Rooyen of South Africa was another shot back in third on 5 under after his 71.

Bradley Dredge of Wales, who shared the first-round lead with Quiros, slipped off the pace with a 1-over 73. He's tied for fourth with Austin Connelly of Canada (71), 4 under par and three shots behind Quiros.

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Bogey-free Moore shares Valero lead

By Will GrayApril 20, 2018, 8:20 pm

Amid the swirling winds on a difficult track at the Valero Texas Open, Ryan Moore has yet to blink.

Moore was one of only two players among the 156-man field to go bogey-free during the opening round at TPC San Antonio, and he's now the only player still boasting a clean scorecard after a second-round 67 that included five birdies and the rest pars. At 9 under, the veteran shares the lead with Zach Johnson and was three shots clear of any other player at the end of the morning wave.

"Really, around this golf course what matters is the right distance," Moore told reporters. "You can get in some pretty tough spots if you're long and short. So I kind of hit it the right distance all day, gave myself plenty of good birdie opportunities and didn't stress myself out too much with too many up-and-downs."

While many players struggle to find a true offseason, Moore took nearly three months off between starts at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba and Waste Management Phoenix Open. During that time he shed nearly 20 pounds thanks to changes to his diet and teamed up with a new swing coach, Drew Steckel, in December.

The results have been solid if not spectacular, as Moore tied for fifth at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and finished T-16 last week at the RBC Heritage.

"It's been solid golf, especially the last few weeks. I haven't got a ton out of it," Moore said. "The putter just wasn't there. So this week, just got a little more comfortable with the putter and knocked a few putts in that kind of matter early in my rounds, and it's going in. That's kind of what's been missing lately."

Moore had a breakthrough season in 2016 that included his victory at the John Deere Classic and spot on the Ryder Cup team, but he hasn't sniffed career win No. 6 since a T-3 finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions 16 months ago. Should he keep a clean card this weekend in San Antonio, his chances to end that victory drought appear bright.

"I played some really nice golf yesterday, I just controlled the ball nicely all the way around and was bogey-free yesterday, so thought, 'Let's go try and do that again,'" Moore said. "So to play in tough, windy conditions, to go bogey-free (again), it was some good solid golf."

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Former champ Z. Johnson surges at Valero

By Will GrayApril 20, 2018, 7:31 pm

Midway through his opening round at the Valero Texas Open, Zach Johnson appeared far closer to a missed cut than a spot on the leaderboard.

Johnson initially struggled in the winds at TPC San Antonio, playing his first 13 holes in 3 over. But he eagled No. 14 and closed with three more birdies to post a 2-under 70, then went unconscious during a second-round 65 where he made six birdies over his first 10 holes.

It added up to a 9-under total at the halfway point, and instead of packing his bags the two-time major champ now shares the lead with Ryan Moore.

"You just never know. That's the beauty of this game," Johnson told reporters. "I didn't have anything going putting-wise. I felt like I was hitting some solid shots and wasn't getting rewarded, and you've just got to stay in it. You've got to persevere, grind it out, fight for pars. Shoot, I made some good pars all while being 3 over. You just never know."

Johnson won this event in both 2008 and 2009, but that was when it was held across town at La Cantera Golf Club. Since the switch to TPC San Antonio in 2010, he has only one top-10 finish and two missed cuts, including last year's early exit with consecutive rounds of 74.

But Friday he played like a man unaware of the venue shift, with four straight birdies on Nos. 12-15 and a hole-out eagle from the greenside bunker on the par-4 fifth hole. His closing bogey on No. 9 was his first dropped shot in the last 25 holes.

"The confidence is there, and when you can step on the tee with this kind of wind, you trust your clubs and trust your ball, that's pretty important," Johnson said. "I felt good. It was hard, I'm not going to deny that. That was one of the better 27-hole stretches that I've had in a long time."

Johnson's 65 was his first sub-70 score since an opening-round 69 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, a span of 12 stroke-play rounds. The veteran has made every cut in 11 starts this season, but his T-8 finish at the RSM Classic in November remains his only top-10 finish.

"I felt really good coming into the week," Johnson said. "Confidence was there, it just wasn't showing up on the scorecard."