Ryder Cup results will reflect on Mickelson, task force

By Rex HoggardSeptember 28, 2016, 5:26 pm

CHASKA, Minn. – A few weeks back, a member of the U.S. team had an interesting question: Who will get credit for the Ryder Cup task force?

Of course, that ignores the possibility of a loss, which would necessitate a different conversation involving blame, but those details will fall into place on Sunday afternoon at Hazeltine National.

Either way, for many the answer to both questions is Phil Mickelson.

Had Lefty not stepped up two years ago following the U.S. team’s loss at Gleneagles and spoken out, in all likelihood the PGA of America would have forged ahead as normal.

Mickelson’s comments in the cold, Scottish night 24 months ago have been incorrectly interpreted as an attack on then-captain Tom Watson, but it had more to do with the culture than the captain.

“We have strayed from a winning formula in 2008 for the last three Ryder Cups, and we need to consider maybe getting back to that formula that helped us play our best,” Mickelson said in 2014.

From that dissent emerged last year’s task force which begat a committee and eventually Love’s second turn at the helm. Throughout it all, Mickelson hasn’t hidden his interest or impact.

Last month, he talked of the detailed plan already in place for this week’s matches, and on Sunday at East Lake he openly questioned the new Billy Horschel pick that led Love to select Ryan Moore to fill out the American dozen.


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Love may be wearing the captain’s hat, but it’s become increasingly clear that Mickelson is the man behind the curtain.

“Phil always has a theory,” Love said. “He had a theory about the debate [Monday] night, and he'll have a theory about who is going to win the games on Saturday. But I used to say he was 50/50 and then I gave him 75 percent and I'm moving him up to maybe 80 percent. I like the way he thinks and I like his planning.”

Whether you cheer or jeer Lefty, it’s a leadership deal.

After 22 years of trial and largely error, he’s had enough of a losing culture. By all accounts, he’s been engaged in this process and by all indications his ideas have been embraced.

Mickelson’s motivations and the minutia of the last year aside, the sum total of the task force has been to give the players a voice and Lefty’s is standing out among the crowd.

“When players are put in a position to succeed, more often than not, they tend to succeed and when they are put in positions to fail, most of the time they tend to fail,” he said. “This is a year where we feel as though Captain Love has been putting us in a position to succeed.”

Specifically, Love & Co. are trying to treat this week as they would any other event – practice, prepare and play with as few distractions and deviations as possible.

By way of example, Mickelson explained that in 2004 at Oakland Hills he and Tiger Woods were set up for failure by captain Hal Sutton.

The duo was told two days before the matches began they would be paired together, leading Mickelson to spend a few scrambling hours trying to learn how to play Woods’ high-spin golf ball.

“I'm taking four or five hours and I'm out trying to learn another ball to allow us to play our best,” Mickelson said. “Had we known a month in advance, we might have been able to make it work. I think we probably would have made it work.”

The duo dropped both matches on Day 1 and the misguided pairing has largely defined Phil and Tiger’s relationship in the Ryder Cup, at least until this week.

Never before have Tiger and Phil’s fate been so intertwined, not on the golf course, where the duo have had far too few head-to-head duels, and certainly not away from the course.

But this Ryder Cup and the ongoing dialogue has created a connection between the game’s two brightest stars the last two decades that hadn’t existed before.

“It's been great. The last few weeks, we've been talking on the phone multiple times a day,” Mickelson said of Woods, who also served on the task force and is a vice captain this week.

“It's been really exciting for us because we've been on so many teams for so many years, and to have this much input and involvement in the process, the way Davis has implemented everybody's input, the way he's brought everybody together and their ideas, has been truly an inclusive process and it's been fun for Tiger and I.”

The crucial difference for Woods this week is that he won’t hit a golf shot. Mickelson will.

Some, including 2014 European captain Paul McGinley, have suggested Mickelson is under the most pressure this week. Pressure to prove the changes he helped herald were a step in the right direction, pressure to improve a less-than-stellar Ryder Cup record (16-19-6 and a .500 mark in singles play), pressure to put the U.S. team on the right path.

This will fall on deaf ears, particularly if the putts don’t fall the U.S. team’s way this week, but the task force and all that followed was designed to create a winning legacy not necessarily a winning outcome in 2016.

“This is the foundation week for us,” Mickelson explained. “This is the week where all the past captains, past vice captains, PGA of America officials, caddies, have had involvement in the decision-making process. We'll work forward and keep continuity into 2018 and from that we'll build on in 2020.”

Those inside the task force bubble understand that measured reality, those on the outside will not.

To some, the 41st Ryder Cup is a referendum on Mickelson. Love may be the captain, Tiger a vice captain, but it was Lefty who led the charge for wholesale change, and the relative success or failure of that transformation depends, however unfairly, on this week’s outcome.

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Defending champs Singh, Franco take senior lead

By Associated PressApril 22, 2018, 12:15 am

RIDGEDALE, Mo. - Defending champions Vijay Singh and Carlos Franco took the third-round lead Saturday in the windy Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf.

Singh and Franco shot a 7-under 47 in wind gusting to 20 mph on the Top of the Rock par-3 course to get to 19-under 145, a stroke ahead of the teams of David Toms-Steve Flesch and Paul Broadhurst-Kirk Triplett.

''It was a tough day,'' Singh said. ''The wind was swirling, have to get the club right and we made some putts. Carlos played really well on the back nine and I played really well on the front nine, so we ham-and-egged it a little.''

Toms and Flesch also shot 47, and Broadhurst and Triplett had a 33 on the 13-hole Mountain Top par-3 course.

''We just paired well together,'' Toms said. ''I don't think either one of us played great. We picked each other up out there.''

Wind and rain is expected Sunday when the teams finish at Top of the Rock, again playing the front nine in alternate shot and the back nine in better ball.

''Make as many birdies as possible and see what happens,'' Singh said. ''That's all we can do.''

Singh and Franco are trying to become the first to successfully defend a title since Jim Colbert and Andy North in 2001. Singh won the Toshiba Classic in March for his first individual senior title.


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


Flesch won the Mitsubishi Electric Classic last week in Georgia for his first senior victory.

Tom Lehman and Bernhard Langer had a 34 at Mountain Top to join Spanish stars Miguel Angel Jimenez and Jose Maria Olazabal at 17 under. Jimenez and Olazabal had a 33 at Mountain Top.

''It's great for me to be able to play with him as a team member,'' Olazabal said. ''We do have great memories from the Ryder Cup and other events, and it's always a great pleasure to play with a great player and a friend.''

Langer took the final-round forecast in stride.

''We've done it hundreds of times before and we'll probably do it again,'' Langer said. ''We'll make the best of it. We both have a good attitude. We're known to play in all sorts of weather and I just look forward to playing one more day with my partner here.''

Wisconsin neighbors Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly were 16 under after a 48 at Top of the Rock.

John Daly and Michael Allen, the second-round leaders after a 46 at Top of the Rock, had a 37 at Mountain Top to drop into a tie for seventh at 15 under.

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Landry shares Valero lead, eyes first career win

By Will GrayApril 21, 2018, 11:15 pm

After coming up just short of a breakthrough win earlier this season, Andrew Landry has another chance to earn his maiden victory at the Valero Texas Open.

Landry came within inches of winning the CareerBuilder Challenge in January, ultimately losing to Jon Rahm in a four-hole playoff. He struggled to find form in the wake of his close call, missing the cut in each of his four starts following his runner-up finish in Palm Springs.

But Landry took some time off to welcome his first child, Brooks, last month and he made it to the weekend in his first start back last week at the RBC Heritage, where he finished T-42. He made a move up the standings Saturday at TPC San Antonio with a bogey-free 67, and at 13 under shares the lead with Zach Johnson heading into the final round.

"I just did everything really good," Landry told reporters. "I was staying patient and just trying to make a bunch of pars. This golf course can come up and bite you in a heartbeat, and I had a couple bad putts that I didn't really make. I'm happy with it, it's a good 5-under round. Gets me in the final group tomorrow and we'll see what happens."

Landry started the day one shot off the pace and in the final group with Johnson and Ryan Moore, and at one point he took sole possession of the lead after birdies on three of his first six holes. Now he'll have another chance in the day's final tee time where he's grouped with Johnson and Trey Mullinax, who sits one shot back after firing a course-record 62 in the third round.

For Landry, it's another opportunity to break into the winner's circle, and it's one for which he feels prepared after coming so close three months ago.

"I mean, I don't want to go too deep into it because I don't want to sound cocky or anything, but I just believe in myself. There's no other explanation for it," Landry said. "You can totally get out here and play with Zach Johnson, Ryan Moore, two top players in the world, and you can go out there and fold under pressure or you can learn a lot.

"Zach's always been a role model to me the way he plays golf, I feel like we have very similar games, and it's just going to be fun tomorrow getting to play with him again."

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Z. Johnson, Landry share 54-hole Texas Open lead

By Associated PressApril 21, 2018, 10:56 pm

SAN ANTONIO - Zach Johnson birdied the par-5 18th Saturday at the Valero Texas Open for a share of the third-round lead with Andrew Landry, a stroke ahead of record-setting Trey Mullinax.

Johnson shot a 4-under 68, holing a 10-footer on 18 to match Landry at 13-under 203 at TPC San Antonio's AT&T Oaks. Landry birdied the 16th and 17th in a 67.

Johnson won the event in 2008 and 2009, the last two times it was played at LaCantera. The 42-year-old Iowan is trying to win for the first time since the 2015 British Open.

''I've got 18 holes to get to that point,'' Johnson said. ''I've got to do exactly what I did on the back side and that was give myself opportunities on every hole. I'm putting great, I'm seeing the lines well, my caddie's reading the greens well, so it's just a matter of committing and executing down the stretch.''

The 30-year-old Landry is winless on the tour.

''I'm a good putter and I just need to give myself a lot of opportunities tomorrow like I did today,'' Landry said. ''I'll be looking forward to tomorrow.''

Mullinax had a course-record 62. He played the back nine in 7-under 29, going 6 under on the last five with eagles on the par-5 14th and 18th and birdies on 16 and 17. He also birdied Nos. 10 and 12 and bogeyed 11.

''It's probably one of the best rounds I've ever had,'' Mullinax said. ''To go out there and shoot 62 on a hard golf course is really good.''

Johnson played the front nine in even par with two birdies and two bogeys. He birdied Nos. 11, 14, 15 and 18 on the back nine.


Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

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''Different wind today early on, misjudged some numbers, misjudged some wind, made some bad swings, all of the above,'' Johnson said. ''But truthfully, my short game was actually pretty good, my putting was great. I missed some putts, but I hit some really good ones, hit some lines and I gave myself opportunities especially on the back side.''

Landry had a bogey-free round.

''I just did everything really good,'' Landry said. ''I was staying patient and just trying to make a bunch of pars. This golf course can come up and bite you in a heartbeat.''

Ryan Moore was two strokes back at 11 under after a 70. Sean O'Hair had a 65 to join 2015 champion Jimmy Walker (67), Chris Kirk (68) and 2013 winner Martin Laird (69) at 9 under.

''I just feel like I'm getting closer and closer to playing better and better golf, more solid golf, putting rounds together,'' Walker said. ''I'm excited for the opportunity tomorrow.''

Mullinax has made 42 of 44 putts from inside 10 feet this week.

''They just kind of remind me of greens from home,'' Mullinax said. ''My caddie, David (Flynn), has been reading them really well. We trusted each other on our reads and I've been hitting good putts. Been working hard on putting on the weeks off that I've had so it's good to see some results.''

The 25-year-old former Alabama player chipped in for the eagle on 14 and the birdie on the par-3 16th.

''It was just a little bit down the hill,'' he said about the 16th. ''All you had to do was just land it just past that little light grass spot. My caddie told me just read it like a putt, so I tried to just read it like a putt and it went in.''

On 18, he hit a 3-iron from 255 yards to 15 feet to set up his eagle putt. He broke the course record of 63 set by Matt Every in 201 and matched by Laird in 2013. The tournament record is 60 at LaCantera, by Bart Bryant in 2004 and Johnson in 2009.

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Z. Johnson looks to end victory drought at Valero

By Will GrayApril 21, 2018, 10:45 pm

Nearly three years after his most recent victory, Zach Johnson has a chance to get back into the winner's circle at the Valero Texas Open.

Johnson started the third round at TPC San Antonio with a share of the lead, and he maintained that position after closing out a 4-under 68 with a birdie on the final hole. At 13 under, he is tied for the lead with Andrew Landry and one shot clear of Trey Mullinax as he looks to win for the first time since The Open in 2015.

"Different wind today. Misjudged some numbers, misjudged some wind, made some bad swings, all of the above," Johnson told reporters. "But truthfully, I mean my short game was actually pretty good, my putting was great. I missed some putts but I hit some really good ones, hit some lines and I gave myself opportunities, especially on the back side."

Johnson started slowly, making the turn in even-par 36, before carding four birdies on the inward half. It was a microcosm of his week at TPC San Antonio, where Johnson is even through three trips across the front nine but has played the back nine in 13 under while picking up more than six strokes on the field in strokes gained: putting.

Johnson won this event in both 2008 and 2009 when it was held at nearby La Cantera, but he has only cracked the top 10 once since it shifted venues in 2010. But facing off in the final group against two players who have yet to win on the PGA Tour, the veteran hopes to capitalize on his back-nine prowess this week in order to deliver career win No. 13.

"I've got to do exactly what I did on the back side, and that was give myself opportunities on every hole," Johnson said. "I'm putting great, I'm seeing the lines well, my caddie's reading the greens well. So it's just a matter of committing and executing down the stretch."