Mickelson's resiliency brings him more major glory

By Rex HoggardJuly 22, 2013, 7:00 pm

GULLANE, Scotland – For Lefty, 43 is the new 33.

Stronger than ever and more technically sound, in body and mind, Phil Mickelson did what many believed he couldn’t do on Sunday at Muirfield – win an Open Championship to move within a U.S. Open title of the career Grand Slam.

While Mickelson’s British breakthrough may not exactly hold to predetermined scripts, he has tuned his competitive twilight years into something of a renaissance. The question is no longer, ‘What will Phil do next?’ so much as it is ‘What can’t Phil do?’

Since turning 40 in 2010 few, if any, players in the modern era have transformed themselves as thoroughly as Mickelson, adding five PGA Tour titles to his resume and two majors (2010 Masters and 2013 Open Championship).

Cradling the claret jug late Sunday at Muirfield following his final-round 66 for a three-stroke victory, it was hard to calculate how much ground the southpaw had covered, professionally and personally, since 2010.

Photos: Mickelson through the years

Photos: Mickelson's major victories

142nd Open Championship: Articles, videos and photos

On Aug. 10, 2010, Mickelson stunned a room full of reporters at the PGA Championship when he revealed that he’d been diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis, a chronic autoimmune disease that affects about one in 100 people.

“About eight weeks ago, about five days before the U.S. Open started, I woke up and I had some intense pain in some areas of my body, some joints and tendons and so forth; so much so that I couldn't walk,” he said at the time. “It progressively got worse.”

A year earlier, Mickelson’s wife, Amy, was diagnosed with breast cancer and some figured Lefty’s best years were behind him, the victim of poor health and redefined priorities.

But like he did in 2006 after the heartbreak at Winged Foot and last week following another disappointing finish in June at Merion, Mickelson rebounded. The reality is that Mickelson began working harder than ever in the days following his 40th birthday to refine his swing and his body.

“It’s unbelievable really,” said Butch Harmon, Mickelson’s swing coach. “When you think about what he’s been through. Think about the arthritis problems that he had. Think about the problems Amy has had. Think about what he’s been through in his game. He’s probably the most resilient player I’ve ever seen in my life.

“You knock the guy down, he just gets back up. He’s just a champion, always has been.”

Harmon is largely credited for dialing back Mickelson’s more aggressive tendencies, and when he arrived at Augusta National earlier this season with the Phrankenwood, a driver/fairway wood hybrid that took the place of his driver, Harmon considered it a seminal moment.

Mickelson’s penchant to over swing has historically been his competitive blind spot (see Foot, Winged, 2006), but with age, and technology, has come a new found appreciation for restraint.

“It takes away his desire to bomb it,” Harmon said. “Me and Bones (Mickelson’s caddie Jim Mackay) have been trying to dial him back for years.”

That Mickelson is in the best physical shape of his career has also eased Lefty into midlife. The psoriatic arthritis forced Mickelson to adjust his diet – which, he admits, was not always the healthiest – and intensify his workout regimen. Earlier this season at Doral, Lefty estimated he was dropping about a pound a month and had lost 25 pounds over the last two years.

“The amount of preparation he has put into every aspect of his game at this point in his career is phenomenal,” said Sean Cochran, Mickelson’s trainer. “Since 2010, it’s been a progression. Not a week goes by that he doesn’t work.”

In many ways, Mickelson’s midlife crisis was wanting to be better, and with assists from Harmon, Cochran, Dave Stockton Sr. (putting) and Dave Pelz (short game) he set out to not go quietly into middle-aged irrelevance.

“One thing about him is he’s one of those guys that if you stay the same you’re backing up,” Mackay said. “He really works hard to get better; he’s gotten better; he’s 43 years old and getting better.”

There is no question Mickelson remains hungry regardless of his Hall of Fame credentials, but it’s just as clear he does so on his own terms and with a clear agenda. Earlier this month when he missed the cut at The Greenbrier Classic armchair analyst figured he’d slipped into a post-U.S. Open malaise.

Merion, Mickelson’s sixth runner-up finish at his national championship, was seen by some as the ultimate professional haymaker, and his pedestrian record in the Open Championship – he had just one top-10 finish in his first 17 trips across the pond – suggested he was no closer to the claret jug.

But Mickelson arrived in the United Kingdom early to play the Scottish Open, which he won on a new, but authentic, links course at Castle Stuart. And on Sunday at Muirfield he played what many, including Mackay and Harmon, consider the greatest round of his career.

“He’s a resilient guy,” said Mackay, who has been with Mickelson since he turned pro more than two decades ago. “He looks forward; he works hard. How many people build a practice facility in their yard, post-40? He really, really wants it.”

For Lefty, the game isn’t about pay checks or even week-in and week-out performances, it’s about legacy. If he were to collect that elusive U.S. Open title he’d join an uber-exclusive list of just five players to claim the career Grand Slam.

“If I’m able to win the U.S. Open and complete the career Grand Slam, I think that that’s a sign of the complete great player,” he said. “If I were able to ever win a U.S. Open, and I’m very hopeful that I will, but it has been elusive for me. And yet this championship has been much harder for me to get.”

With that he was off into the gloomy East Lothian night. There are still major mountains to be climbed.

Getty Images

M. Jutanugarn eyeing first win with L.A. Open lead

By Associated PressApril 21, 2018, 1:50 am

LOS ANGELES - Moriya Jutanugarn took the lead into the weekend at the Hugel-JTBC L.A. Open in her latest bid to join younger sister Ariya as an LPGA winner.

Moriya Jutanugarn shot a bogey-free 5-under 66 on Friday at Wilshire Country Club to get to 8-under 134 in the LPGA Tour's first event in Los Angeles since 2005. The 23-year-old from Thailand started fast with birdies on the par-5 second, par-4 third and par-3 fourth and added two more on the par-4 11th and par-5 13th.

Ariya Jutanugarn has seven LPGA victories.

Marina Alex was second after a 68.

Full-field scores from the Hugel-JTBC Open

So Yeon Ryu was 6 under after a 69, and fellow South Korean players Inbee Park(71) and Eun-Hee Ji (69). Park was the first-round leader at 66. Lexi Thompsonwas 3 under after a 71.

Top-ranked Shanshan Feng followed her opening 74 with a 67 to get to 1 under.

Ariya Jutanugarn (71) was even par, and Michelle Wie (70) was 1 over. Brooke Henderson, the Canadian star who won last week in Hawaii, had a 79 to miss the cut.

Getty Images

Johnson, Moore co-lead Valero Texas Open through 36

By Associated PressApril 21, 2018, 1:00 am

SAN ANTONIO - Zach Johnson was going nowhere in the Valero Texas Open when it all changed with one putt.

He made an 8-foot par putt on the 13th hole of the opening round to stay at 2 under. He followed with a big drive, a hybrid into 12 feet and an eagle. Johnson was on his way, and he kept right on going Friday to a 7-under 65 and a share of the 36-hole lead with Ryan Moore.

''You just never know. That's the beauty of this game,'' Johnson said. ''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. You just never know.''

Moore had three birdies over his last five holes for a 67 and joined Johnson at 9-under 135.

They had a one-shot lead over Grayson Murray (69) and Andrew Landry (67).

Ben Crane (66), Martin Laird (65) and David Hearn (68) were three shots behind. Billy Horschel and Keegan Bradley shot 71 and were four shots behind at 5-under 139.

Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos

Sergio Garcia, who consulted Greg Norman on the design of the AT&T Oaks Course at the TPC San Antonio, had a short stay in his first time at the Texas Open since 2010. Garcia shot an even-par 72, and at one point became so frustrated he threw his driver into the shrubs.

Garcia finished at 2-over 146 and missed the cut.

It was the first time since 2010 that Garcia missed the cut in successive starts. That was the PGA Championship and, 10 weeks later, the Castello Masters in Spain. This time, he missed the cut in the Masters and Texas Open three weeks apart.

Johnson, a two-time winner of the Texas Open, appeared to be headed to a short week until the key par save on the 13th hole, followed by his eagle, par and three straight birdies. He began the second round Friday with five birdies in a six-hole stretch on the back nine, a sixth birdie on the par-4 first hole, and then an eagle on the short par-4 fifth when he holed out from a greenside bunker.

The only sour taste to his second round was a three-putt bogey from about 30 feet on his final hole. Even so, the view was much better than it was Thursday afternoon.

Moore thought he had wasted a good birdie opportunity on the par-5 14th hole when he left his 50-foot eagle putt about 6 feet short. But he made that, and then holed a similar putt from 8 feet for birdie on the next hole and capped his good finish with a 15-foot putt on the 17th.

''That was a huge momentum putt there,'' Moore said of the 14th. ''It was a tough putt from down there with a lot of wind. That green is pretty exposed and ... yeah, really short and committed to that second putt really well and knocked it right in the middle.''

The birdies on the 14th and 15th were important to Moore because he missed a pair of 10-foot birdie tries to start the back nine.

''So it was nice to get those and get going in the right direction on the back,'' he said.

The cut was at 1-over 145, and because 80 players made the cut, there will be a 54-hole cut on Saturday.

Getty Images

Garcia tosses driver, misses Valero cut

By Will GrayApril 21, 2018, 1:00 am

It wasn't quite to the level of his watery meltdown earlier this month at the Masters, but Sergio Garcia still got frustrated during the second round of the Valero Texas Open - and his driver paid the price.

Garcia had a hand in redesigning the AT&T Oaks Course along with Greg Norman several years ago, but this marked his first return to TPC San Antonio since 2010. After an opening-round 74, Garcia arrived to the tee of the short par-4 fifth hole and decided to get aggressive with driver in hand.

When his shot sailed well left, a heated Garcia chucked the club deep into the bushes that lined the tee box:

It took considerable effort for Garcia to find and retrieve the club amid the branches, and once he did things only got worse. He appeared to shank a chip once he got up to his ball, leading to a bogey on one of the easiest holes on a demanding track.

Garcia closed out his round with four straight pars, and at 2 over he eventually missed the cut by a shot. It marks the first time he has missed consecutive cuts on the PGA Tour since 2003, when he sat out the weekend at the AT&T Byron Nelson, Fort Worth Invitational and Memorial Tournament in successive weeks.

Garcia entered the week ranked No. 10 in the world, and he was the only top-20 player among the 156-man field. He missed the cut at the Masters in defense of his title after carding an octuple-bogey 13 on the 15th hole during the opening round.

Getty Images

Daly-Allen team grabs Legends of Golf lead on Day 2

By Associated PressApril 20, 2018, 11:14 pm

RIDGEDALE, Mo. - John Daly and Michael Allen took the second-round lead Friday in the cool and breezy Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf.

Daly and Allen shot an 8-under 46 on the Top of the Rock par-3 course with wind gusting to 15 mph and the temperature only in the high-50s at Big Cedar Lodge. They had three birdies on the front nine in alternate-shot play and added five more on the back in better-ball play to get to 13 under.

''Michael and I go back to the South African days in the late 80s and playing that tour,'' Daly said. ''We've been buddies since. He's just fun to play with. We feed off each other pretty good. And if he's not comfortable guinea-pigging on one hole, I'll go first.''

On Thursday, they opened with a 66 on the regulation Buffalo Ridge course. They will rotate to the 13-hole Mountain Top par-3 course on Saturday, and return to Top of the Rock for the final round Sunday.

''I went to high school in Jeff City, so it's cool to have the fans behind us,'' Daly said.

Allen won the PGA Tour Champions team event with David Frost in 2012 and Woody Austin in 2016.

''I'm just here to free up John,'' Allen said. ''It was fun. Luckily, I started making good putts today. We just want to keep the good times rolling.''

Full-field scores from the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf

Defending champions Vijay Singh and Carlos Franco were a stroke back along with Bernhard Langer-Tom Lehman and Paul Broadhurst-Kirk Triplett. Singh and Franco had a 7-under 32 in best-ball play at Mountain Top, and Lehman-Langer and Broadhurst-Tripplet each shot 6-under 48 at Top of the Rock.

''Part of the issue here is all the tees are elevated, so you're up high hitting to a green that's down below and the wind is blowing, and there is more time for that wind to affect it,'' Lehman said. ''If you guess wrong on the wind, you can hit a really good shot and kind of look stupid.''

Former UCLA teammates Scott McCarron and Brandt Jobe were two strokes back at 11 under with Steve Flesch and David Toms and the Spanish side of Jose Maria Olazabal and Miguel Angel Jimenez. McCarron-Jobe had a 47, and Jimenez-Olazabal a 48 at Top of the Rock, and Tom Flesch shot 34 at Mountain Top.

First-round leaders Jeff Maggert and Jesper Parnevik had a 52 at Top of the Rock to fall three shots back at 10 under. Madison, Wisconsin, friends Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly also were 10 under after a 32 at Mountain Top. Jay Haas aced the 131-yard seventh hole at Mountain Top with a gap wedge. Haas and fellow 64-year-old Peter Jacobsen were 8 under after a 32.