Mickelson looking to cure 'beyond pathetic' putting

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 7, 2015, 1:32 am

SAN DIEGO – Tiger Woods withdrawing with injury.

Phil Mickelson three-putting his way to another missed cut.

Is this the new normal for 2015?

A day after Woods was whisked away in a golf cart because his glutes misfired, Mickelson won’t stick around for the weekend at his hometown event because of a deactivated putter.

No wonder the locals bemoaned the end of an era: It was the first time that both Tiger and Phil failed to play the weekend in consecutive starts.

Lefty stood on a podium after his round Friday looking and sounding broken. Having entered the season brimming with optimism, his confidence has been shattered by eight relatively listless rounds.

“You can’t compete out here putting the way I did,” he said. “It was one of my worst putting performances, and the first few weeks, really, have been the same way. You simply can’t compete at this level putting like that.”

In all there were five three-putts, the most of any player in the 156-man field and Mickelson’s career high through 36 holes in a non-major.

“I’m down,” he said. “I’m frustrated.”

And for good reason.

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After torpedoing Tom Watson’s captaincy during an uncomfortable Ryder Cup news conference, Mickelson disappeared from view for nearly four months. The occasional report trickled out, about Phil’s diet and his fitness and his renewed power, but since making his debut at the Humana Challenge he has been plagued by the same inconsistency that led to the worst year of his career in 2014.

Following his trunk slam in Phoenix, this is the first time since 2002 that Mickelson has missed the cut in consecutive weeks on Tour.

“I feel like I’m hitting the ball tee to green quite well, really well,” he said. “But if I can’t get back to the levels of 2013, I’m not sure what I’m going to do, because this is very frustrating.”

In the 30 Tour events since his surprising breakthrough at Muirfield, Mickelson has only a pair of top 10s and eight missed cuts or withdrawals. Last year he had a career-low one top 10 in 21 tries, his first winless season since ’03.

He was ranked outside the top 100 in total driving and ball-striking, but whatever gains he has made in those areas during the offseason have been negated by putting that he described as “beyond pathetic.”

“He’s very frustrated at the moment,” said Butch Harmon, Mickelson’s swing coach. “He feels like he’s played well enough to be in a pretty good position, and he’s done nothing with the putter. It was just horrendous how bad it was out there.”

Worse, Mickelson doesn’t appear any closer to a solution.

At the behest of short-game guru Dave Pelz, Mickelson began the year with a unique putting approach, using the claw grip for putts inside 10 feet and the conventional grip for those outside that range.

He abandoned the claw heading into Torrey Pines, but reverted back with a few holes remaining in his second round in a last-ditch effort to make the cut. It didn’t work, as Mickelson’s 74-72 left him three shots adrift.

Moving forward, he said he didn’t know which grip he would use.

“I don’t think that the claw is the long-term solution,” he said, “although I think it’s a good way to putt. But it’s not ultimately where I want to be.”

Whatever Mickelson is doing now isn’t working.

Through two rounds he needed a whopping 64 putts – including 33 in the opening round, when he lost 2.96 strokes to the field on the greens.

“If I had answers,” he said, “I would be out there putting better.”

Added Harmon: “He’s just in one of those funks that you get in and it gets in your head.”

Even Mickelson says that what likely began as a technical issue has morphed into something mental, as well.

Like anyone he has endured hot and cold spells during his career, but his putting was never a long-term concern. That’s not the case anymore, and for a player whose game is predicated on confidence, his mojo is now in short supply.

“I don’t think it will be a quick fix,” he said, “because if you putt bad for a few weeks, it’s going to take not only fundamental change, but it will take some good low rounds and some hot putting streaks to get the confidence back, too.”

Unlike Woods, whose problems are more widespread (health, driver, short game), Mickelson’s issue at least is more isolated.

Right now, that’s little consolation. For these aging warriors, the top of the leaderboard has never seemed further away.

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Ryu thriving again after simple advice from Inbee Park

By Randall MellJune 21, 2018, 7:07 pm

So Yeon Ryu shared Rolex Player of the Year honors last year.

She reigned as world No. 1 for almost five months.

So when she couldn’t keep her momentum going at year’s start, she got frustrated. She wasn’t happy with two top 10s in her first 11 starts.

“I lost a lot of confidence at the beginning of the year,” Ryu said Thursday as she prepared to lead a strong field as the defending champion in Friday’s start of the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship. “My expectation level was way too high.”

So she sought the counsel of her pal, world No. 1 Inbee Park, who gave her some plain-spoken advice.

Full-field scores from the Walmart Arkansas Championship

“Get over it,” Park told her. “You know what to do. You’ve done it, so it’s not really a big deal. Don’t worry about it. You were No. 1. You’ve achieved a lot of things as a professional golfer. Just don’t be too hard on yourself.”

Ryu got over it winning the Meijer LPGA Classic last week, the sixth LPGA title of her career, her third in 15 months. She’s feeling good again leading a stellar field this week at Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers, Ark., a strong tune up before next week’s KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, the year’s third major championship.

World No. 1 Park, No. 2 Ariya Jutanugarn and No. 3 Lexi Thompson are among the top nine players in the world scheduled to compete this week. Twenty-four of the top 30 are in the field.

“When you come to defend your title, you obviously have a lot of pressure, but after I won last week, now I sort of think, maybe I have a chance to defend my title,” Ryu said. “So I've got total confidence, by last week.”

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Watch: Spieth, JT hole bunker shots in back-to-back groups

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 21, 2018, 6:57 pm

Jordan Spieth has a thing for holing bunker shots at the Travelers Championship, where he made one in a playoff to win last year.

He did it again in Round 1 at TPC River Highlands, knocking in this shot for eagle at the par-5 sixth to reach 4 under par for the tournament

In the next group, Justin Thomas did the same thing to reach 1 under. Keep an eye out for the best part of this highlight, when Thomas' caddie Jimmy Johnson tries to hand him his putter.

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River Highlands a 'breather' for Zach Johnson (63)

By Will GrayJune 21, 2018, 6:43 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – After enduring the pressure-cooker of the U.S. Open, Zach Johnson was more than happy to drift north to the friendly confines of TPC River Highlands.

Birdies were rare last week at Shinnecock Hills, but they’ll be plentiful all week long at the Travelers Championship. Browned-out and crispy conditions transitioned to lush and verdant, and players can attack flags without fear of turning a possible par into a struggle to avoid triple.

Johnson did just that in the opening round, carding eight birdies against a single bogey to take the early lead with a 7-under 63.

“It’s a different kind of breathing. It’s a different kind of exhaling, if you will, but they’re both good,” Johnson said. “You can put some red on the board here. We know that. We’ve seen it. You can go the other way in a hurry if you press it; it can keep going in the other way. So you kind of have to let it happen. This is one of those courses where you have to let it happen.”

Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Like many in this week’s field, Johnson took it easy after a grueling major championship, staying away from the course Monday and easing into his prep over the next two days. Those decisions paid off quickly as he rattled off six straight birdies on Nos. 11-16 to take sole possession of the lead.

While Johnson tied for 12th last week at Shinnecock Hills, that was just his second top-15 finish since the Sony Open in January. But the veteran is no stranger to fast starts at TPC River Highlands, having now opened with 65 or better four times in his last eight appearances dating back to 2011.

It’s a course where he continues to have success, even if his past consistency hasn’t lived up to expectations.

“I feel like every time I get here it feels like I should shoot nothing, and it bites me,” Johnson said. “The last couple years I’m like, ‘All right, you can’t have any expectations in that regard. You’ve just got to go out and execute, you know, put the ball in the fairway and you will have opportunities.’” 

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First photos from Norman's 'Body' shoot

By Grill Room TeamJune 21, 2018, 6:35 pm

It was revealed earlier this week that Greg Norman would be one of the athletes showcased in ESPN's "Body Issue," which features the models stategically posed in the nude.

Well, the first photos are out from Norman's shoot and ... here they are, if you want them.