Mickelson goes 67-67, lurks behind Woods at Doral

By Rex HoggardMarch 8, 2013, 9:22 pm

DORAL, Fla. – Maybe it was Tuesday’s drive down Magnolia Lane, or Wednesday’s range session with Butch Harmon, or the sight of Tiger Woods rolling again at Doral and the ghosts of 2005 swirling in his subconscious.

Whatever the tonic, count Phil Mickelson among the highly motivated this week at the WGC-Cadillac Championship, and as a rule good things happen when Lefty is properly fixated.

It was eight years ago, when Doral was a rare splash of South Florida flavor before the PGA Tour stop went WGC and corporate, that Mickelson and Woods put on a Sunday show. On a warm, sunny day the game’s alpha and omega delivered a title bout that old men in sandwich shops still talk about.

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Woods and Mickelson finished 54 holes separated by two strokes and atop the field. On Sunday they traded nine birdies and an eagle. Woods closed with a 66 for a one-stroke victory, while Mickelson carded a 69 that included a closing attempt for birdie on No. 18 that caught the lip of the hole but drifted away.

Since then Woods holds the edge in head-to-heads when the two are paired together with an 8-6-2 record, but in recent years it is Mickelson who has taken a mano-y-mano edge in the game’s ultimate two-ball.

In the final round last year at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am Lefty lapped Woods, carding a 64 to “Red Shirt’s” 75 and in 2007 at the Deutsche Bank Championship it was Phil again, 66 to 67.

Karma didn’t work out for Saturday. Graeme McDowell birdied his last two holes to take his place in the day’s anchor pairing with Woods, but that didn’t dim Mickelson’s hopes for a Sunday sequel in South Florida.

“I saw Tiger was playing well and I wanted to make a couple birdies to get in the group with him,” said Mickelson, who has posted matching 67s this week and is tied for third place, three strokes behind Woods. “It seems since 2007 when we played at Deutsche Bank in Boston, I've been playing some of my best golf when we get paired together.”

There was an intensity to Mickelson’s take on his time with Tiger that can’t be gleaned from printed sound bites. He wants this like he used to want In-N-Out burgers.

There are few, if any, as talented as Mickelson when he achieves the proper level of desire and this week at Doral he is motivated – in mind and body. Not bad for a guy who said he began this week “cautiously optimistic” following a two-week competitive hiatus and a rare trip to the practice tee after his round on Wednesday to work with Harmon.

“He seldom practices after a round but the wind was perfect for a left-handed player (left to right) and I asked him to hit some balls,” Harmon said. “It’s a lot of the things we’ve worked on in the past so it’s easy to get it back.”

In short, Harmon said Mickelson was getting his lower body through the ball too fast. The fix was “getting his arms across his body,” and “quieting his lower body,” Harmon said.

The result has been plenty of birdie opportunities – highlighted by a few Phil moments, including a birdie off a cart path on Day 1 – and a chance to win his second Tour tilt of 2013 and a possible Doral re-do with Woods.

There’s also something to be said for Mickelson’s scouting trip to Augusta National on Tuesday with Keegan Bradley. For Lefty the home of The Masters is like a competitive B-12 shot.

“Seeing the course, playing there, and being on the grounds, having breakfast, having lunch there, overlooking the grounds and just playing there, gets me excited about the game,” Mickelson said of Augusta National. “There's something very spiritual about playing Augusta if you love the game as much as I do and going there gets me fired up.”

Nor should observers dismiss the fact that . . . well, there is less of himself to motivate these days. Mickelson said he’s losing about a pound a month and has lost about 25 pounds over the last two years, a byproduct of a better diet and a more intense workout regimen.

Mickelson actually began training in the gym earlier than ever this offseason and switched up his routine this week to work out before his round, not after, which has been the norm.

“I noticed since 2010 (the year Mickelson was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis) he’s been much more conscientious to eat healthy,” said Sean Cochran, Mickelson’s longtime trainer. “And this offseason he’s been much more dedicated to his workout program.”

For Mickelson all these tumblers have fallen into place in perfect confluence on a perfectly familiar pitch. For golf it has created the opportunity for the perfect storm on Sunday at Doral – again.

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Van Rooyen holes putt after ball-marker ruling

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 4:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Erik van Rooyen was surveying his 10-footer for par, trying to get a feel for the putt, when his putter slipped out of his hand and dropped onto his ball marker.

The question, then, was whether that accident caused his coin to move.

The rules official looked at various camera angles but none showed definitively whether his coin moved. The ruling was made to continue from where his coin was now positioned, with no penalty.

This was part of the recent rules changes, ensuring there is no penalty if the ball or ball maker is accidently moved by the player. The little-used rule drew attention in 2010, when Ian Poulter accidentally dropped his ball on his marker in Dubai and wound up losing more than $400,000 in bonus and prize money.

After the delay to sort out his ruling Friday, van Rooyen steadied himself and made the putt for par, capping a day in which he shot even-par 71 and kept himself in the mix at The Open. He was at 4-under 138, just two shots off the clubhouse lead.

“I wanted to get going and get this 10-footer to save par, but I think having maybe just a couple minutes to calm me down, and then I actually got a different read when I sat down and looked at it again,” he said. “Good putt. Happy to finish that way.”

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Lyle birdies last hole in likely his final Open start

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 4:32 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – If this was Sandy Lyle’s final Open appearance, he went out in style.

Playing on the final year of his automatic age exemption, the 60-year-old Scot buried a 30-foot birdie on the last hole. He missed the cut after shooting 9-over 151 over two rounds.

“I was very light-footed,” he said. “I was on cloud nine walking down the 18th. To make birdie was extra special.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Lyle, who also won the 1988 Masters, has missed the cut in his last eight majors, dating to 2014. He hasn’t been competitive in The Open since 1998, when he tied for 19th.

To continue playing in The Open, Lyle needed to finish in the top 10 here at Carnoustie. He’d earn a future exemption by winning the Senior British Open.

“More punishment,” he said.

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DJ, Thomas miss cut at Open; No. 1 up for grabs

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 3:35 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The top two players in the world both missed the cut at The Open, creating the possibility of a shakeup at the top of the rankings by the end of the weekend.

Dustin Johnson became the first world No. 1 since Luke Donald in 2011 to miss the cut at the year’s third major.

Johnson played solidly for all but the closing stretch. Over two rounds, he was 6 over par on the last three holes. He finished at 6-over 148.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Thomas added to what’s been a surprisingly poor Open record. Just like last year, when he struggled in the second round in the rain at Royal Birkdale, Thomas slumped to a 77 on Friday at Carnoustie, a round that included three consecutive double bogeys on Nos. 6-8. He finished at 4-over 146.

It’s Thomas' first missed cut since The Open last year. Indeed, in three Open appearances, he has two missed cuts and a tie for 53rd.  

With Johnson and Thomas out of the mix, the No. 1 spot in the rankings is up for grabs this weekend.

Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm all can reach No. 1 with a victory this week.

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TT Postscript: Woods (71) makes cut, has work to do

By Tiger TrackerJuly 20, 2018, 3:32 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Here are a few things I think I think after Tiger Woods shot a second consecutive even-par 71 Friday in the second round. And yes, he made the cut:

• Tiger said all 71s are not created equal. On Thursday, he made three birdies and three bogeys. On Friday, he made four birdie and four bogeys. Which round was better? The first. His theory is that, despite the rain, conditions were easier in the second round and there were more scoring opportunities. He didn't take advantage.

• This is the first time since the 2013 Open at Royal Lytham & St. Annes that Tiger shot par or better in each of the first two rounds of a major. That’s quite a long time ago.

• Stat line for the day: 11 of 15 fairways, 13 of 18 greens, 32 total putts. Tiger hit one driver and two 3-woods on Thursday and four drivers on Friday, only one which found the fairway. An errant drive at the second led to him sniping his next shot into the gallery


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

• In his own words: “I could have cleaned up the round just a little bit. I got off to not exactly the best start, being 2 over through three, but got it back. The golf course was a little bit softer today, obviously. It rains, and we were able to get the ball down a little bit further, control the ball on the ground a little bit easier today, which was nice.”

• At some point Tiger is going to have to be more aggressive. He will be quite a few shots off the lead by day’s end and he'll have a lot of ground to make up. Hitting irons off the tee is great for position golf, but it’s often leaving him more than 200 yards into the green. Not exactly a range for easy birdies.

• Sure, it’s too soon to say Tiger can’t win a fourth claret jug, but with so many big names ahead of him on the leaderboard, it’s unlikely. Keep in mind that a top-six finish would guarantee him a spot in the WGC: Bridgestone Invitational in two weeks. At The Players, he stated that this was a big goal.

• My Twitter account got suspended momentarily when Tiger was standing over a birdie putt on the 17th green. That was the most panicked I’ve been since Tiger was in contention at the Valspar.