Suddenly, a Mickelson career slam looks possible

By Rex HoggardJuly 26, 2013, 9:49 pm

Open hangovers tend to last longer than jet lag and international layovers, and last week’s frenzied finish at Muirfield has required more retrospective than normal. In no particular order, the week that was on the Firth of Forth:

Made Cut

Left field. This was the one Phil Mickelson was never supposed to win. Consider that in his first 17 Open starts Lefty had just one top-10 finish, and yet there he was late Sunday hoisting the claret jug and talking about his legacy.

In less than a month the conversation changed from Mickelson’s heartbreak at Merion, where he posted his sixth runner-up finish at the national championship, to his place among the game’s greats as he eyes a career Grand Slam, which has been accomplished by only five others.

“Those five players are the greats of the game. You look at them with a different light,” Mickelson said at Muirfield. “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.”

The only aspect of Mickelson’s game that has ever truly been in question is his motivation, but following last week’s British breakthrough it seems he will have no trouble remaining properly inspired to collect that last piece of the Grand Slam puzzle – the U.S. Open.

Muirfield. The list of Open champions at the East Lothian links remains beyond reproach following Mickelson’s torrid finish and after a week walking the dusty track it’s easy to see why.

Muirfield is widely considered the fairest of all Open rotation courses and the hard and fast conditions only added to the layout’s shot-making aura. As one player explained to Cut Line on Monday, if you hit a good shot you were rewarded, while bad shots were punished, sometimes dramatically.

Bad bounces are part and parcel of the links golf experience, but at Muirfield the rub of the green seemed to be mitigated by a straightforward test and solid ball-striking.

It’s enough to make one wish we saw the Scottish gem more than once a decade.

Tweet of the week: @JohnHurleyGolf ( Tour player John Hurley): “Has anyone ever had the luxury of making par on the last two for 59 in a tour event? Great work (Russell Knox).”

Knox went out in 30 on Friday at the Boise Open on the Tour (he started on the back nine), eagled the second and birdied his next five to get to 12 under. We can hear the punch lines now, how’d you shoot 59? Easy pars at the last two. #Classic.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Adjustments. Before we go all Draconian on another major miss for Tiger Woods last week – he has now gone 17 Grand Slam stops without a “W” – it’s important to keep things in perspective.

Woods is the only player this season with four victories and during that 0-for-17 major slide he has nine top-10 finishes, which hardly suggests it’s time to reinvent the wheel. There is, however, a concerning theme that seems to regularly crop up for the world No. 1.

“I had a hard time adjusting to the speeds,” Woods said on Sunday of Muirfield’s putting surfaces.

Last month at Merion, where he finished tied for 32nd, Woods had a similar take: “I struggled with the speed all week.”

And at the Memorial: “I didn't putt very well.  I had bad speed all week.”

Ditto for this year’s Masters: “I had a hard time getting the speed ...”

You get the point. Woods’ swing has largely been up to the task (he ranks 20th on Tour this season in ball-striking and total driving), which means the only difference between the current version of Woods and the one who collected 14 majors is lag putting.

May we humbly suggest an emergency session with Steve Stricker before next month’s PGA Championship.

Missed Cut

R&A. The week began with R&A chief Peter Dawson clumsily picking his way through the all-male minefield that bringing the Open Championship back to Muirfield wrought and then took the golf course too close to the line and had to douse the dust-up with copious amounts of water.

It’s no wonder Dawson & Co. canceled the traditional Monday morning news conference.

For Dawson, there is no easy answer to the all-male issue that promises to flare up again in 2016 when the championship returns to Royal Troon, but he will have to do better than “we've been through over 250 years of existence without getting into political comment, and I don’t really intend to break that rule here.”

Reality is they have made political hot spots part of their job. As for the agronomic hot spots that beset Muirfield’s greens let’s hope they are a little quicker with the water hoses next time.

Legal fees. We will spare you the details of the ongoing legal wrangling between Vijay Singh and the PGA Tour, but the most recent motion, filed by the Tour in the commercial division of the New York County Supreme Court last Friday, is an indication of how contentious and esoteric things have gotten.

The motion, an ongoing legal slugfest since the Fijian sued the Tour in May following his run-in with the circuit’s anti-doping policy, argues to dismiss Singh’s claim that players had no say in the implementation of the anti-doping policy.

“(Players) act principally through the PGA Tour policy board, which consists of four players elected by the full Tour membership, four volunteer independent directors and one member from the PGA of America. The Player Advisory Council – which Singh himself served on in 2009 ... – consults on policy issues with the Policy Board. It was the Policy Board (in consultation with the PAC) that approved the program in 2007.”

Cut Line still figures this case is headed toward a settlement, but at this rate it won’t be anytime soon.

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Haas nearly shoots age in taking Champions playoff opener lead

By Associated PressOctober 20, 2018, 10:05 pm

RICHMOND, Va.  -- Jay Haas shot a 7-under 65 - missing his age by a stroke - to take a two-shot lead Saturday in the PGA Tour Champions' playoff-opening Dominion Energy Charity Classic.

Trying to become the oldest winner in tour history, the 64-year-old Haas birdied the par-5 16th and 18th holes to get to 11-under 133 on The Country Club of Virginia's James River Course.

''I've been out here too long to know that I can learn to expect anything,'' Haas said. ''While I'm hopeful every day and I've been playing OK, the last couple weeks have not been very good, but this week has been much better. I love this golf course and it looks good to my eye. Most of the holes look like I'm going to hit a good shot, so I enjoy playing here.''

Mike Fetchick set the age record of 63 years to the day in the 1985 Hilton Head event. Haas is second on the list, taking the 2016 Toshiba Classic at 62 years, 10 months, 7 days for his 18th senior title.

''That's a good way to say I'm old, 'experience,''' Haas said. ''I think I'm very nervous most of the time when I play and today was no exception, but I continued to hit good shots and, hopefully, I can put one foot in front of the other, one shot at a time, do what I tell my son to do every time, you know? See if I can put some of those adages to work tomorrow.''

Full-field scores from the Dominion Energy Charity Classic

Stephen Ames and Scott Dunlap were tied for second after the round that started in light rain. Ames had a 67, and Dunlap shot 68.

Defending champion Bernhard Langer had a 66 to join Billy Mayfair (67) and Woody Austin (68) at 9 under. Langer won the SAS Championship last week in North Carolina to take the season points lead. The 61-year-old German star has two victories this year and 38 overall on the 50-and-over tour.

The top 72 players qualified for the Charles Schwab Cup Playoffs opener. The top 54 on Sunday will get spots next week in the Invesco QQQ Championship in Thousand Oaks, California, and the top 36 after that will advance to the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship in Phoenix.

Miguel Angel Jimenez, second in the standings, was tied for 23rd at 4 under after a 71.

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Sergio leads by 4 entering final round at Valderrama

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 20, 2018, 9:26 pm

Sergio Garcia closed with three straight birdies to shoot a 7-under 64 on Saturday, taking a four-shot lead into the third and final round of the Andalusia Valderrama Masters.

The tournament, which Garcia has won  twice (2017, 2011), was reduced to 54 holes because of numerous weather-related delays.

With his bogey-free round, Garcia moved to 10 under, four shots clear of Englishman Ashley Chesters, who shot a 1-under 70.

Full-field scores from the Andalucia Valderrama Masters

"Hopefully we'll be able to play well tomorrow and get another win at Valderrama," Garcia said. "Hopefully I can finish it in style."

Chesters, however, is conceding nothing. "There's always a chance," he said. "There's not a lot of pressure on me."

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Ciganda, S.Y. Kim share lead in Shanghai

By Associated PressOctober 20, 2018, 9:28 am

SHANGHAI - Carlota Ciganda of Spain shot a 5-under 67 Saturday to share the lead with Sei Young Kim after the third round of the LPGA Shanghai.

Ciganda carded her fifth birdie of the day on the par-4 18th to finish tied with overnight leader Kim at 11-under 205. Kim shot a 71 with four bogeys and five birdies.

Ciganda is attempting to win her third LPGA title and first since the 2016 season, when she won two tournaments in a one-month span. Kim is chasing her eighth career LPGA win and second title of the 2018 season.

''I want to win because I didn't win last year,'' Ciganda said. ''I love playing in Asia. It's good for long hitters, playing quite long, so I'm quite comfortable.''

Full-field scores from the Buick LPGA Shanghai

Angel Yin also birdied the final hole for a 68 and was a further stroke back with Brittany Altomare (69), Danielle Kang (71) and Ariya Jutanugarn (71).

Yin and Altomare have yet to break through for their first LPGA win. A win in Shanghai would make either player the ninth first-time winner of the 2018 season, which would tie 2016 for the third highest number of first-time winners in a season in LPGA history.

''I love competing,'' Yin said. ''That's why I'm playing, right? I'm excited to be in contention again going into Sunday.''

Local favorite Yu Liu was seventh after offsetting a lone bogey with four birdies for a 69.

Paula Creamer also shot a 69 and shared eighth at 8 under with Minjee Lee (70) and Bronte Law (71).

The tournament is the second of five being played in South Korea, Japan, China and Taiwan in the LPGA's annual Asian swing.

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Koepka's pursuers have no illusions about catching him

By Nick MentaOctober 20, 2018, 8:50 am

Ahead by four, wielding his driver like Thor's hammer, Brooks Koepka is 18 holes from his third victory in five months and his first ascent to the top of the Official World Golf Ranking.

The tournament isn't over. No one is handing him the trophy and updating the OWGR website just yet. But it will likely take some combination of a meltdown and low round from someone in the chase pack to prevent a Koepka coronation Sunday in South Korea.

Thirteen under for the week, the three-time major champion will start the final round four shots ahead of his playing partners, Ian Poulter and Scott Piercy, and five ahead of six more players at minus-8.

As is his nature, Poulter figures to be undaunted. The 42-year-old is fresh off a Sunday singles victory over Dustin Johnson at the Ryder Cup and in the midst of a career renaissance, having broken a five-year winless drought earlier this year. In one sense, it's Europe vs. the United States again, but this isn't match play, and Koepka, a guy who doesn't need a head start, has spotted himself a four-shot advantage.

Full-field scores from the CJ Cup

CJ Cup: Articles, photos and videos

"Tomorrow I'm going to need to make a few birdies. Obviously Brooks is in cruise control right now and obviously going to need a shoot a low one," Poulter conceded. "Do what I'm doing, just enjoy [it]. Obviously try and make as many birdies as I can and see how close we get."

Perez, in the group at 8 under par, isn't giving up, but like Poulter, he's aware of the reality of his situation.

"We're chasing Brooks, who of course obviously is playing phenomenally," he said. "A lot of the long hitters now when they get in contention, they hit that driver and they're really hard to catch. I'm not worried about it too much. It's going to be harder for me tomorrow than him, so I'm going to try and go out and just do my thing, hit some shots, hopefully hit some close and make some putts and we'll see. I don't expect him to come backwards, but hopefully I can try to go catch him."

Gary Woodland, also 8 under par, summed up the predicament best when he alluded to Koepka's perhaps advantageously aloof demeanor.

"You obviously want to get off to a good start and put pressure on him as soon as you can," he said. "You know, Brooks doesn't seem like he cares too much, and he's playing so good, so you're going to have to go out and post a number."