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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Murray fixes swing flaw, recovers momentum

By Associated PressApril 20, 2018, 2:24 am

SAN ANTONIO - Grayson Murray fixed a flaw in his swing and hit the ball well enough that blustery conditions weren't an issue for him Thursday in the Valero Texas Open.

Coming off a missed cut at Hilton Head last week, Murray made seven birdies for a 5-under 67 and a one-shot lead. His only mistake was a double bogey from a greenside bunker on the par-3 seventh hole.

''Just the fact I did give myself enough opportunities today for birdie, it took a lot of pressure off,'' Murray said.

Of the five players at 68, only Chesson Hadley played in the morning side of the draw, and he called it among his best rounds of the year because of gusts. The wind died in the afternoon and scoring improved slightly on the AT&T Oaks Course at the TPC San Antonio. Keegan Bradley, Ryan Moore, Billy Horschel and Matt Atkins each posted 68. Horschel and Moore played bogey-free.

''Struck the ball really well, something that we've been working hard on,'' Horschel said. ''Could have been better, yeah. I didn't really make anything out there today. But I'm happy with it.''

Sergio Garcia, who consulted Greg Norman on the design of the course, played the Texas Open for the first time since 2010 and shot a 74. Adam Scott failed to make a birdie in his round of 75. Scott is at No. 59 in the world and needs to stay in the top 60 by May 21 to be exempt for the U.S. Open.

Harris English was in the group at 69, while two-time Texas Open champion Zach Johnson, Nick Watney and Brandt Snedeker were among those at 70. Johnson saved his round by going 5 under over his final five holes, starting with a 12-foot eagle putt on the par-5 14th hole. He birdied the last three.

Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos

Murray was coming off a pair of top 15s at Bay Hill and the Houston Open when his game got away from him last week in the RBC Heritage, and he shot 74-70 to miss the cut. He got that sorted out in the five days between teeing it up in San Antonio.

He said he was coming down too steep, which meant he would flip his hands and hit a sharp draw or pull out of it and hit it short and right.

''I was hitting each club 10 yards shorter than I normally do, and you can't play like that because your caddie is trying to give you a number and a club, and you keep hitting these bad shots or keep coming up short,'' Murray said. ''I got back to the basics with the setup and the takeaway, got my club in a better position at the top, which kind of frees my downswing. Then I can start going at it.''

Even so, Murray thought he wasted his good start - three birdies in his first six holes - when his bunker shot at No. 7 came out with no spin and rolled off the green into a deep swale. He hit his third short to about 7 feet, but missed the putt and took double bogey.

''I would have loved to limit that to a bogey because bogeys don't really kill you - doubles are the ones that now you've got to have an eagle or two birdies to come back with, and out here it's kind of tough to make birdies,'' Murray said. ''But I kept my head. My caddie keeps me very positive out there, that's why I think we could finish 4 under the last nine holes.''

Only 34 players in the 156-man field managed to break par.

Horschel missed four birdie chances inside 18 feet on the back nine. What pleased him the most was the way he struck the ball, particularly after his tie for fifth last week at the RBC Heritage. Horschel was one shot behind going into the last round and closed with a 72.

But he's all about momentum, and he can only hope this is the start of one of his runs. Horschel won the FedEx Cup in 2014 when he finished second and won the final two playoff events.

''I'm a big momentum player. I've got to get the train moving forward,'' he said. ''I've always been a guy who gets on a little roll, get that train moving and jump in that winner's circle.''

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LPGA back in L.A.: Inbee Park leads by 1

By Associated PressApril 20, 2018, 1:53 am

LOS ANGELES - Inbee Park's flirtation with retirement is in the rear-view mirror.

Backed by a large contingent of South Korean fans, Park shot a 5-under 66 for a one-shot lead Thursday in the opening round of the HUGEL-JTBC LA Open in the LPGA's return to Los Angeles after a 13-year absence.

Showers ended shortly before Park's threesome, including second-ranked Lexi Thompson, teed off at windy Wilshire Country Club just south of Hollywood.

Using a new putter, Park birdied four consecutive holes on the back nine before a bogey on the par-4 17th. She quickly recovered and rolled in birdie putts on the second and fifth holes to finish off her round.

''I never played a tournament outside Korea having this much Korean supporters out,'' Park said. ''I almost feel like I'm playing back home. It's almost like a little Korea.''

That applies to the food, too, with nearby Koreatown's restaurants beckoning.

''Too many,'' Park said.

The third-ranked Park banished the blade-style putter she used in her Founders Cup victory last month in Phoenix, a playoff loss in the ANA Inspiration and a tie for third last week in Hawaii. She went back to one that feels more comfortable and has brought her success in the past.

''Last week was just an awkward week where I missed a lot of short ones and I just wasn't really comfortable with the putter,'' Park said, ''so I just wanted to have a different look.''

The 29-year-old Hall of Famer recently said she was 50-50 about retiring before returning to the tour in early March after a six-month break. Momentum has been going her way ever since.

Marina Alex was second. Thompson was one of seven players at 68 in partly sunny and unseasonable temperatures in the low 60s.

Full-field scores from the Hugel-JTBC Open

Alex tied Park with a birdie on No. 11. The American dropped a stroke with a bogey on the par-5 13th before rallying with a birdie on No. 14 to share the lead.

Alex found trouble on the par-4 17th. Her ball crossed over a winding creek, bounced and then rolled into the water, leaving Alex looking for it. Eventually, she salvaged a bogey to drop a shot behind Park. After a bad tee shot on 18, Alex managed a par to close at 67.

''I made a lot of the putts that I shouldn't, I wouldn't have expected to make,'' she said. ''I made two great saves on 17 and 18. Kind of got away with some not-so-solid golf shots in the beginning, and I capitalized on some great putts.''

Thompson returned from a two-week break after finishing tied for 20th at the ANA Inspiration, the year's first major.

She bogeyed her second hole, the par-4, 401-yard 11th, before settling down and birdieing four of the next eight holes, including the 14th, 15th and 16th.

''I changed a little thing that slipped my mind that I was working on earlier in the year,'' said Thompson, declining to share the change in her putting technique. ''I don't want to jinx it.''

ANA winner Pernilla Lundberg was among those in the logjam after a 68.

Natalie Gulbis was among five players tied for 10th at 69. Playing sparingly the last two years, Gulbis put together a round that included four birdies and two bogeys.

Top-ranked Shanshan Feng struggled to a 74 with five bogeys and two birdies.

The venerable course with views of the Hollywood sign and Griffith Observatory wasn't any kinder to eighth-ranked Cristie Kerr and Michelle Wie.

Both had up-and-down rounds that included three bogeys and a double-bogey on No. 10 for Kerr and five bogeys, including three in a row, for Wie. Wie, ranked 14th, had a few putts that lipped out.

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Horschel (68) builds on momentum at Valero

By Will GrayApril 20, 2018, 12:32 am

Billy Horschel only ever needs to see a faint glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.

While some players require a slow ascent from missed cuts to contending on the weekend, Horschel's switches between the two can often be drastic. Last year he missed three straight cuts before defeating Jason Day in a playoff to win the AT&T Byron Nelson, a turnaround that Horschel said "still shocks me to this day."

The veteran is at it again, having missed five of six cuts prior to last week's RBC Heritage. But a few tweaks quickly produced results, as Horschel tied for fifth at Harbour Town. He wasted no time in building on that momentum with a bogey-free, 4-under 68 to open the Valero Texas Open that left him one shot behind Grayson Murray.

"I'm a big momentum player. I've got to get the train moving forward," Horschel told reporters Thursday. "I've always been a guy who gets on a little roll, get that train moving and jump into the winner's circle. So yeah, it would have been great to win last week, but it was just nice to play four really good rounds of golf."

Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos

Many big names tend to skip this week's stop at TPC San Antonio, but Horschel has managed to thrive on the difficult layout in recent years. He finished third in both 2013 and 2015, and tied for fourth in 2016.

With a return next week to the Zurich Classic of New Orleans where he notched his first career win in 2013 and a title defense in Dallas on the horizon, Horschel believes he's turning things around at just the right time.

"Gets the momentum going, carry it into this week, next week, which I've had a lot of success at," Horschel said. "Really the rest of the year, from here on in I have a lot of really good events I've played well in."

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Three years later, PXG launches new iron

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 19, 2018, 11:22 pm

Three years is a long time between launches of club lines, but Bob Parsons, founder and CEO of PXG, says his company had a very good reason for waiting that long to introduce its second-generation irons.

“Three years ago, when we introduced our first generation 0311 iron, we made a commitment that we would not release a product unless it was significantly better than our existing product,” Parsons said. “:Our GEN2 irons are better than our GEN1 irons in every respect. We believe it’s the best iron ever made, and the second-best iron ever made is our GEN1 iron.”

PXG’s 0311 GEN2 irons, which officially went on sale today, feature what the company says is the world’s thinnest clubface. They have a forged 8620 soft carbon steel body and PXG’s signature weighting technology. The hollow clubheads are filled with a new polymer material that PXG says not only dampens vibration, but also produces higher ball speeds and thus more distance.

The irons come in four “collections” – Tour Performance, Players, Xtreme Forgiveness and Super Game Improvement.

Cost is $400 per iron, or $500 for PXG’s “Extreme Dark” finish. Price includes custom fitting. For more information, visit