At 43, Phil captures British with best golf of career

By Ryan LavnerJuly 21, 2013, 9:07 pm

GULLANE, Scotland – After capping the best round of his career with another birdie, and with both arms still thrust into the air, Phil Mickelson floated toward a misty-eyed Jim “Bones” Mackay.

“I did it,” Mickelson said, wrapping his arms around his trusty caddie of more than 20 years.

He had captured a major title in his 40s.

He had transformed his game to win the British Open.

He had rebounded from the most devastating loss of his career.

And he had done so with epic Lefty flair – with birdies on four of his last six holes for a 5-under 66 and a three-shot victory that cemented his legacy as one of the game’s all-time greats, as a complete player.

“After you work with a guy for 21 years,” Mackay said near the clubhouse afterward, “it’s pretty cool when you see him play the best round of golf he’s ever played in the last round of the British Open.”

At 43, Mickelson says he’s playing and putting as well as he ever has, if not better. He’s managing his arthritis, and he’s as strong, fit and title-hungry as he was back in his days at Arizona State. “He really, really wants it,” Mackay said. “You can’t underestimate how much he wants to compete and do well.”

But Mickelson readily admits that even he had doubts, that he wasn’t sure that winning the Open was in his future. Doing so would require an evolution of his swing-from-the-heels style, adding an arsenal of shots to a Hall of Fame game that has already notched 40-plus wins on the PGA Tour.   

Each year he turns up at the Masters believing that he’s going to win. Same at the U.S. Open, where he is a record six-time runner-up. But over the years, the British Open has proved far more elusive. In his first nine tries at the Open as a pro, he finished no better than 11th.

“Of the four majors,” said his wife, Amy, “he hasn’t necessarily thought of himself as able to conquer this.”

That mentality began to shift in 2004 at Royal Troon, where after an opening 73 Mickelson shot three consecutive rounds in the 60s and fell one shot out of the playoff.

It was emboldened two years ago at Royal St. George’s, where he played a flawless front nine Sunday before being blown away late en route to a T-2 finish.

And it was reinforced, finally, during his playoff victory last week at Castle Stuart in firm-and-fast conditions.

“The big thing for Phil is that he’s learned to embrace links golf,” said his swing coach, Butch Harmon. “He learned how to put the ball down on the ground and play more under control.”

A few days ago, over breakfast, daughter Sophia asked her father:

If you’re at a course that is difficult for you, and if you’re not going to win, is it better to miss the cut and go home, or to keep trying to figure it out?

His answer: Always keep playing, especially in preparation for this major, because any chance to gain more experience in the elements, hitting and creating new shots, can help you learn how to win.

Sure enough, Mickelson was five shots down with 18 holes to go and still believed he could win, despite posting just a pair of top 10s in 17 previous Open appearances. In fact, before he kissed the family goodbye and left their rented house on Sunday, he told Amy: “I’m gonna go get me a claret jug today.”

Starting the day at 2 over, Mickelson made birdies on Nos. 9 and 13 to move back to even for the tournament, then reeled off birdies on 14, 17 and 18 to seal the three-shot victory over Henrik Stenson

Most impressive, however, may have been Lefty’s gritty par save on the 16th. His tee shot landed on the green about 20 feet short of the flag, but the ball kept creeping toward the front of the green and eventually rolled all the way down the left side. Assessing his options, he calmly told Bones, “I can get this up-and-down,” and, indeed, he clipped his pitch shot off the baked-out turf and sank a slippery 8-footer to stay one shot clear.

A hole later, Mickelson launched back-to-back 3-woods – that club, he says, has “altered my career” – on the par 5 and two-putted from 30 feet to take a two-shot cushion to the final hole. For good measure, his 6-iron from 185 yards gathered 10 feet behind the hole, and he buried the putt to punctuate “one of the best rounds of my career.”

Standing on the 18th green, Amy Mickelson compared the overwhelming emotions to the 2004 Masters, when Phil broke through after going 0-for-42 in golf’s biggest events.

“But this is a different kind of meaningful,” she said. “We were just staring at (the trophy), like, your name is on the claret jug. It’s very surreal, and I think it might be the most meaningful to him, because it’s the most unexpected.”

Not least because of what transpired five weeks ago at Merion.

It was Mickelson’s most crushing defeat in a career that has seen its share of high-profile flameouts. Late bogeys on 13, 15 and 18 that Sunday extended his own record of six runners-up at the year’s second major, the one he most desperately wants to win.

That close call hurt even worse than the ’06 Open at Winged Foot, where he didn’t truly expect to win, not after hitting only two fairways on Sunday.

For two days last month, Mickelson “didn’t really get out of bed,” Amy said. “Totally a shell (of himself). That’s not like him.”

Thankfully, on Wednesday after the Open, the Mickelsons were off to Montana for a planned vacation with four other families. Rafting. Zip lining. Fly-fishing. Archery. Every day was jam-packed with activities, meaning there was no time to mope or dwell on what could have been.

At that moment, Mickelson knew that his 2013 season was a critical juncture.

“It could have easily gone south,” he said, “where I was so deflated that I had a hard time coming back. But I looked at it and thought I was playing really good golf. I had been playing some of the best in my career. And I didn’t want it to stop me from potential victories this year, and some potential great play.”

After a missed cut at The Greenbrier, Mickelson was thoroughly impressive at the Scottish Open in winning in Europe for the first time in two decades. And now, after early rounds of 69-74-72, and a near-flawless Sunday performance, Mickelson joins the roster of Hall of Famers who have hoisted the claret jug at Muirfield.

“This is just a day and a moment that I will cherish forever,” he said. “This is a really special time, and as fulfilling a career accomplishment as I could ever imagine.”

Getty Images

Wie has hand surgery, out for rest of 2018

By Randall MellOctober 18, 2018, 9:43 pm

Michelle Wie will miss the rest of this season after undergoing surgery Thursday to fix injuries that have plagued her right hand in the second half of this year.

Wie announced in an Instagram post that three ailments have been causing the pain in her hand: an avulsion fracture, bone spurs and nerve entrapment.

An avulsion fracture is an injury to the bone where it attaches to a ligament or tendon.

View this post on Instagram

I think John Mayer once said, “Someday, everything will make perfect sense. So for now, laugh at the confusion, smile through the tears, be strong and keep reminding yourself that everything happens for a reason.” A lot of people have been asking me what’s been going on with my hand and I haven’t shared much, because I wasn’t sure what was going on myself. After countless MRI’s, X-rays, CT scans, and doctor consultations, I was diagnosed with having a small Avulsion Fracture, bone spurring, and nerve entrapment in my right hand. After 3 cortisone injections and some rest following the British Open, we were hoping it was going to be enough to grind through the rest of the season, but it just wasn’t enough to get me through. So I made the decision after Hana Bank to withdraw from the rest of the season, come back to the states, and get surgery to fix these issues. It’s been disheartening dealing with pain in my hand all year but hopefully I am finally on the path to being and STAYING pain free! Happy to announce that surgery was a success today and I cannot wait to start my rehab so that I can come back stronger and healthier than ever. Huge thank you to Dr. Weiland’s team at HSS for taking great care of me throughout this process and to all my fans for your unwavering support. It truly means the world to me. I’ll be back soon guys!!!! Promise

A post shared by Michelle Wie (@themichellewie) on

Dr. Andrew Weiland, an attending orthopedic surgeon at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, performed the procedure.

“It’s been disheartening dealing with pain in my hand all year, but, hopefully, I am finally on the path to being and staying pain free,” Wie wrote.

Wie withdrew during the first round of the Ricoh Women’s British Open with the hand injury on Aug. 2 and didn’t play again until teeing it up at the UL International Crown two weeks ago and the KEB Hana Bank Championship last week. She played those events with what she hoped was a new “pain-free swing,” one modeled after Steve Stricker, with more passive hands and wrists. She went 1-3 at the UL Crown and tied for 59th in the limited field Hana Bank.

“After 3 cortisone injections and some rest following the British Open, we were hoping it was going to be enough to grind through the rest of the season, but it just wasn’t enough to get me through,” she wrote.

Buick LPGA Shanghai: Articles, photos and videos

Wie, who just turned 29 last week, started the year saying her top goal was to try to stay injury free. She won the HSBC Women’s World Championship in March, but her goal seemed doomed with a diagnosis of arthritis in both wrists before the year even started.

Over the last few years, Wie has dealt with neck, back, hip, knee and ankle injuries. Plus, there was an emergency appendectomy that knocked her out of action for more than a month late last season. Her wrists have been an issue going back to early in her career.

“I don’t think there is one joint or bone in her body that hasn’t had some sort of injury or issue,” Wie’s long-time swing coach, David Leadbetter, said earlier this year.

Getty Images

Woods receives his Tour Championship trophy

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 18, 2018, 8:57 pm

We all know the feeling of giddily anticipating something in the mail. But it's doubtful that any of us ever received anything as cool as what recently showed up at Tiger Woods' Florida digs.

This was Woods' prize for winning the Tour Championship. It's a replica of "Calamity Jane," Bobby Jones' famous putter. Do we even need to point out that the Tour Championship is played at East Lake, the Atlanta course where Jones was introduced to the game.

Woods broke a victory drought of more than five years by winning the Tour Championhip. It was his 80th PGA Tour win, leaving him just two shy of Sam Snead's all-time record.

Getty Images

Garcia 2 back in storm-halted Andalucia Masters

By Associated PressOctober 18, 2018, 7:08 pm

SOTOGRANDE, Spain  -- Ashley Chesters was leading on 5-under 66 at the Andalucia Valderrama Masters when play was suspended because of darkness with 60 golfers yet to complete their weather-hit first rounds on Thursday.

More than four hours was lost as play was twice suspended because of stormy conditions and the threat of lightning at the Real Club Valderrama in southern Spain.

Full-field scores from the Andalucia Valderrama Masters

English journeyman Chesters collected six birdies and one bogey to take a one-shot lead over Gregory Bourdy of France. Tournament host and defending champion Sergio Garcia was on 68 along with fellow Spaniards Alvaro Quiros and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, and Australia's Jason Scrivener.

''It's a shame I can't keep going because the last few holes were the best I played all day. Considering all the delays and everything, I'm very happy with 5 under,'' Chesters said. ''The forecast for the rest of the week is not very good either so I thought I'll just make as many birdies as I can and get in.''

Getty Images

Caddies drop lawsuit; Tour increases healthcare stipend

By Rex HoggardOctober 18, 2018, 3:33 pm

After nearly four years of litigation, a group of PGA Tour caddies have dropped their lawsuit against the circuit.

The lawsuit, which was filed in California in early 2015, centered on the bibs caddies wear during tournaments and ongoing attempts by the caddies to improve their healthcare and retirement options.

The caddies lost their class-action lawsuit in U.S. District Court and an appeal this year.

Separately, the Association of Professional Tour Caddies, which was not involved in the lawsuit but represents the caddies to the Tour, began negotiating with the circuit last year.

“I told the guys, if we really want a healthy working relationship with the Tour, we need to fix this and open the lines of communication,” said Scott Sajtinac, the president of the APTC.

In January 2017, Jay Monahan took over as commissioner of the Tour and began working with the APTC to find a solution to the healthcare issue. Sajtinac said the Tour has agreed to increase the stipend it gives caddies for healthcare beginning next year.

“It took a year and a half, but it turned out to be a good result,” Sajtinac said. “Our goal is to close that window for the guys because healthcare is such a massive chunk of our income.”

In a statement released by the Tour, officials pointed out the lawsuit and the “potential increase to the longtime caddie healthcare subsidy” are two separate issues.

“Although these two items have been reported together, they are not connected. The PGA Tour looks forward to continuing to support the caddies in the important role they play in the success of our members,” the statement said.

Caddies have received a stipend from the Tour for healthcare for some time, and although Sajtinac wouldn’t give the exact increase, he said it was over 300 percent. Along with the APTC’s ability to now negotiate healthcare plans as a group, the new stipend should dramatically reduce healthcare costs for caddies.

“It’s been really good,” said Sajtinac, who did add that there are currently no talks with the Tour to created a retirement program for caddies. “Everybody is really excited about this.”