Phil Mickelson finds himself in a better place

By Rex HoggardAugust 5, 2009, 4:00 pm
WGC-Bridgestone - 125wAKRON, Ohio ' It wasnt New York, not even New Jersey, but it was something. A cool morning in the heart of America was lifted by the presence of a single man doing a job he loves.
 
No, not Tiger Woods ' although its always a good table when the world No. 1 is about. But Wednesdays stage at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational was saved for Phil Mickelson.
 
Watching the world No. 2 work his way around the South Course, it was easy to become mesmerized by competing skill sets, and were not talking about that magicians short game and slashing swing.
 
Phil Mickelson at WGC Bridgestone
Phil Mickelson is playing for the first time since the U.S. Open. (Getty Images)
This Phil, the one drained by months of emotional toil, has acquired the uncanny ability to compartmentalize and to keep things in perspective. Good news on the home front has sent Lefty back out into the Tour universe, our gain. And, maybe more importantly, a different view of the world has given him the ability to see beyond the scorecard.
 
Golf is better with Mickelson and his presence here sends the unquestionable message that Amy Mickelson, who was diagnosed with breast cancer earlier this year and underwent treatment shortly after the U.S. Open, is 1 up in a much more important match.
 
Although his voice still cracks when he talks about Amy and the Pink Out day officials had at Colonial for her and the outpouring of support they have received, hes finding a way to make Tour life his own version of Vegas ' what happens outside the ropes, stays outside the ropes.
 
He has to, its the only option Amy would accept.
 
I dont know if you really separate it, Mickelson said. Weve been fortunate. Both my mom (who was diagnosed with breast cancer shortly after Amy) and Amy have caught it early and weve been able to have some wonderful care.
 
So, you march on.
 
He didnt plan to be spending the dog days of summer so far from Amy. Hadnt even allowed himself to think that far ahead. But circumstances opened a door, and after everything the Mickelsons have been through of late you dont ignore karma.
 
If you had asked me two months ago would I be able to play again in August I didnt think that would be possible, he said. But weve had some good things happen along the way and Im fortunate to be able to play.
 
As for perspective, its inevitable in these types of brushes with mortality. Three footers dont seem so crucial, missed drives dont make the mental highlight reel and hazards seem much less hazardous.
 
Even major championships dont haunt ones thoughts. The same man who bounced his U.S. Open hopes off a corporate tent on the 72nd hole at Winged Foot and could manage only, Im such an idiot, can find solace in his circumstances.
 
Even that fifth silver medal at Bethpage last month, the door prize for finishing second at the national championship, had less bite than previous near misses.
 
Asked on Wednesday if his Bethpage finish had the same emotional impact as, say, Winged Foot in 2006 or Pinehurst in 1999, he was quiet, yeah, that would be fair to say.
 
Six weeks of untold procedures and almost not a single swing of a golf club has passed since Mickelson last found his way onto a Tour tee sheet. Its the longest mid-summer layoff of his career and, in a clarity of thought way, the best possible way to prepare for next weeks PGA Championship.
 
Mental rehearsal is every bit as important as physical rehearsal, Mickelson said. When I had my nurse gown on, I would mentally rehearse shots and stuff to just think about ' just kind of keep myself sharp, even though I wasn't touching a club. So I think when I came back and was finally able to swing a club, I was able to play fairly decently.
 
Make no mistake, Mickelsons expectations are high. Always are.
 
He went to Hazeltine National last Wednesday to do some pre-major homework, spent extra time with swing coach Butch Harmon on Wednesday working on the practice range. He still talks about his swing in abstract tones, but now hes not consumed by it.
 
Mickelson was asked about his schedule beyond the PGA and the answer came without hesitation: Well see.
 
Its the reality of the New Phil and a welcome sign. On a Tour defined by scorecards, Mickelson is more than happy to just play the cards hes been dealt.
 
Simply put, Mickelson is in a better place now.
 
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    USC's Gaston leaves to become head coach at A&M

    By Ryan LavnerJune 19, 2018, 11:00 pm

    In a major shakeup in the women’s college golf world, USC coach Andrea Gaston has accepted an offer to become the new head coach at Texas A&M.

    Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

    Gaston, who informed her players of her decision Monday night, has been one of the most successful coaches over the past two decades, leading the Trojans to three NCAA titles and producing five NCAA individual champions during her 22-year reign. They have finished in the top 5 at nationals in an NCAA-record 13 consecutive seasons.

    This year was arguably Gaston’s most impressive coaching job. She returned last fall after undergoing treatment for uterine cancer, but a promising season was seemingly derailed after losing two stars to the pro ranks at the halfway point. Instead, she guided a team with four freshmen and a sophomore to the third seed in stroke play and a NCAA semifinals appearance. Of the four years that match play has been used in the women’s game, USC has advanced to the semifinals three times.  

    Texas A&M could use a coach with Gaston’s track record.

    Last month the Aggies fired coach Trelle McCombs after 11 seasons following a third consecutive NCAA regional exit. A&M had won conference titles as recently as 2010 (Big 10) and 2015 (SEC), but this year the team finished 13th at SECs.

    The head-coaching job at Southern Cal is one of the most sought-after in the country and will have no shortage of outside interest. If the Trojans look to promote internally, men’s assistant Justin Silverstein spent four years under Gaston and helped the team win the 2013 NCAA title.  

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    Spieth 'blacked out' after Travelers holeout

    By Will GrayJune 19, 2018, 9:44 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – It was perhaps the most-replayed shot (and celebration) of the year.

    Jordan Spieth’s bunker holeout to win the Travelers Championship last year in a playoff over Daniel Berger nearly broke the Internet, as fans relived that raucous chest bump between Spieth and caddie Michael Greller after Spieth threw his wedge and Greller threw his rake.

    Back in Connecticut to defend his title, Spieth admitted that he has watched replays of the scene dozens of times – even if, in the heat of the moment, he wasn’t exactly choreographing every move.


    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


    “Just that celebration in general, I blacked out,” Spieth said. “It drops and you just react. For me, I’ve had a few instances where I’ve been able to celebrate or react on a 72nd, 73rd hole, 74th hole, whatever it may be, and it just shows how much it means to us.”

    Spieth and Greller’s celebration was so memorable that tournament officials later shipped the rake to Greller as a keepsake. It’s a memory that still draws a smile from the defending champ, whose split-second decision to go for a chest bump over another form of celebration provided an appropriate cap to a high-energy sequence of events.

    “There’s been a lot of pretty bad celebrations on the PGA Tour. There’s been a lot of missed high-fives,” Spieth said. “I’ve been part of plenty of them. Pretty hard to miss when I’m going into Michael for a chest bump.”

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    Pregnant Lewis playing final events before break

    By Randall MellJune 19, 2018, 9:27 pm

    Stacy Lewis will be looking to make the most of her last three starts of 2018 in her annual return to her collegiate roots this week.

    Lewis, due to give birth to her first child on Nov. 3, will tee it up in Friday’s start to the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship at Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers, Arkansas. She won the NCAA individual women’s national title in 2007 while playing at the University of Arkansas. She is planning to play the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship next week and then the Marathon Classic two weeks after that before taking the rest of the year off to get ready for her baby’s arrival.

    Lewis, 33, said she is beginning to feel the effects of being with child.

    “Things have definitely gotten harder, I would say, over the last week or so, the heat of the summer and all that,” Lewis said Tuesday. “I'm actually excited. I'm looking forward to the break and being able to decorate the baby's room and do all that kind of stuff and to be a mom - just super excited.”

    Lewis says she is managing her energy levels, but she is eager to compete.

    “Taking a few more naps and resting a little bit more,” she said. “Other than that, the game's been pretty good.”

    Lewis won the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship in 2014, and she was credited with an unofficial title in ’07, while still a senior at Arkansas. That event was reduced to 18 holes because of multiple rain delays. Lewis is a popular alumni still actively involved with the university.

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    Just like last year, Spieth in desperate need of a spark

    By Will GrayJune 19, 2018, 8:38 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Jordan Spieth has arrived at the Travelers Championship in need of a turnaround. Again.

    Spieth’s playoff victory last year over Daniel Berger, complete with a bunker hole-out and raucous celebration, went down as one of the most electrifying moments of 2017. It also propelled Spieth to some more major glory, as he won The Open in his very next start.

    So it’s easy to forget the state of Spieth’s game when he first stepped foot on the grounds of TPC River Highlands a year ago. Things were, quite plainly, not going well.

    He was struggling on the greens, even going so far as to switch putters at the AT&T Byron Nelson. He then failed to contend at Erin Hills, only netting a T-35 finish thanks to a final-round 69 that came hours before the leaders teed off.

    So here we are again, with Spieth in search of a spark after a series of underwhelming performances that included last week’s effort at Shinnecock Hills, where he bogeyed the last two holes of his second round to miss the cut by a shot. Except this time, the climb back to the top may be even steeper than it was a year ago.

    “I’m not sure where the state of my game is right now,” Spieth said. “If I strike the ball the way I have been this year, then the results are coming. But the last couple weeks I’ve played Muirfield and then the (U.S.) Open, and I hit the ball really poorly and didn’t give myself that many opportunities to let the putter do the work.”

    While many big names play sporadically in the time between the Masters and U.S. Open, Spieth remained as busy as ever thanks to the Tour’s swing through Texas. So even after failing to contend much in the spring outside of a memorable finale in Augusta, and even after struggling for much of his week at TPC Sawgrass, Spieth looked out at his schedule and saw a myriad of possible turning points.

    There was the AT&T Byron Nelson, played in his hometown and at a venue on which he was one of only a handful with any experience (T-21). Then a trip across town to Colonial, where he had beaten all but two players in a three-year stretch (T-32).


    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


    Throw in the missed cuts at Muirfield Village and Shinnecock Hills, and Spieth has made it to the last leg of a six-event stretch that has included only one off week and, to date, zero chances to contend come Sunday.

    “I think here this week, the key for me is just to get out in the first round and try not to do too much,” Spieth said. “I mean, 90-plus percent of the tournaments the last two years I’ve thrown out my chances to win a golf tournament on Thursday. I’ve had too much to do from here on.”

    That was certainly the case last week on Long Island, where Spieth’s hopes for a fourth major title evaporated well before course conditions became a focal point over the weekend. He was 4 over through his first two holes and spent much of the next 34 stuck in a fit of frustration. He gave himself a glimmer of hope with four late birdies Friday followed by a pair of bogeys that snuffed it out with equal speed.

    Spieth has continued to preach patience throughout the year, but there’s no getting around some eye-popping stats; he's 188th on Tour this year in strokes gained: putting and 93rd in fairways hit. It can foster a pressure to find a cure-all in any given week, especially given how quickly he got a middling summer back on track last year.

    “It’s something that you fight, sure,” Spieth said. “It’s been that way just about every tournament except Muirfield, because then you go to the U.S. Open and think you don’t even have to shoot under par to win this golf tournament. So as much as that kind of comes into your head, it’s not bothering me this time. I’m going to try and have fun, and make progress.”

    After this week, Spieth will have some down time with family before making the trip overseas to Carnoustie. He plans to have a few private dinners accompanied by the claret jug, one last toast to last year’s success before turning the trophy back over to the R&A.

    But even Spieth admitted that as it pertains to his chances to follow in Brooks Koepka’s footsteps by successfully defending a major title, he’ll be greatly aided by working his way into the mix this weekend. It represents the last chance in this early-summer swing to get his name back on the leaderboard, an opportunity to light fire to a pedestrian campaign like he did a year ago.

    No pressure.

    “It’s your basic stuff that sometimes gets off, that the harder you try to get them back on sometimes, the worse it gets,” Spieth said. “It can be frustrating, or you can just kind of wait for it to come to you. I think I’m OK with where things are, whether it’s the rest of this year or next year. I feel like there are good scores coming.”