Mickelson sore, but game healthy after 18 in Houston

By Ryan LavnerApril 3, 2014, 8:29 pm

HUMBLE, Texas – After hitting a 262-yard 3-wood, Phil Mickelson retreated to the white tent left of the first tee. He raised his arms over his head, leaned slowly to his left and let out an audible groan.


During the first round here at the Shell Houston Open, Mickelson occasionally stretched, twisted and turned, and tried to loosen up his right oblique muscle. He did some kind of hula-hoop move in one fairway. He gave his side a few gentle massages in another. One time, he held the club in both hands, lifted it skyward and bent to both sides.

Sure, he might still be sore, but Thursday’s opening 68 was a best-case scenario.

He didn’t reinjure his oblique. He got another competitive round under his belt. And, better still, he played well, sitting just three shots off the lead at the Golf Club of Houston.

“I’m surprised,” he said, “but I feel terrific. In a matter of five days or so, it has healed up.”

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After withdrawing from the Valero Texas Open on Saturday, Mickelson said he was concerned not only about this week’s event but also the Masters. He could have sat out Houston and let his pulled muscle calm down, but that decision would have derailed his big-picture plan.

“For me to have a realistic chance, or as best a chance as possible at the Masters, I’ve got to play this week and get in a better frame of mind,” he said. “I needed to play this week and really challenge myself to give myself the best chance for next week.”

Mickelson spent last weekend at home before traveling to Augusta for two days of major prep. He hit only iron shots, pitches and putts on Tuesday, then played nine holes Wednesday.

When he showed up here early Thursday morning, he relied only on his feel, his old yardage books and his caddie Jim “Bones” Mackay’s notes. The lack of on-site practice apparently had little impact, as Mickelson shot his best score in his past nine rounds, and just his fifth PGA Tour round this year in the 60s.

There was plenty of intrigue surrounding how his pulled muscle would hold up, mostly because he needs to go full-bore with the big stick at Augusta. In the opening round he hit driver seven times, hard. Five of those seven drives went 300-plus, including a 328-yard bomb on 8.

Most impressive, though, was his second shot into the par-5 fourth. From 262 yards, he piped a 3-wood through the tight, narrow neck in front of the green and gave himself a 35-foot eagle try.

“Oh, baby!” he said, bounding after the shot. “Woo-hoo-hooooo! That’s Keegan Bradley stuff right there!”

Mickelson may not have been 100 percent, but that didn’t stop him from engaging in a friendly long-drive competition with Bradley, who is 16 years younger and, when he’s swinging well, absolutely mauls the ball absurd distances.

Sure enough, Bradley blew it past Mickelson by 23 yards on the next hole, and as he walked past Phil he coughed loud enough to get his attention. To be sure, a first-round 66 certainly did that, as well.

Of his former Ryder Cup partner, Bradley said: “He was striking it. He was hitting it long and great. I think he’s OK.”

So does Mickelson, which is most important. He described the discomfort as post-workout soreness as opposed to a “painful experience.”

Of course, his entire 2014 season has been painful, from the close call in Abu Dhabi to the back pain at Torrey Pines to the worst-ever West Coast swing to this most recent ailment.

For this 68, Mickelson credited a light therapy machine, which he said has made a “world of difference” in the healing process.

Apparently, because that device didn’t just allow him to play, and contend, this week in Houston; it also seems to have strengthened his Masters hopes.

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Van Rooyen holes putt after ball-marker ruling

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 4:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Erik van Rooyen was surveying his 10-footer for par, trying to get a feel for the putt, when his putter slipped out of his hand and dropped onto his ball marker.

The question, then, was whether that accident caused his coin to move.

The rules official looked at various camera angles but none showed definitively whether his coin moved. The ruling was made to continue from where his coin was now positioned, with no penalty.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

This was part of the recent rules changes, ensuring there is no penalty if the ball or ball maker is accidently moved by the player. The little-used rule drew attention in 2010, when Ian Poulter accidentally dropped his ball on his marker in Dubai and wound up losing more than $400,000 in bonus and prize money.

After the delay to sort out his ruling Friday, van Rooyen steadied himself and made the putt for par, capping a day in which he shot even-par 71 and kept himself in the mix at The Open. He was at 4-under 138, just two shots off the clubhouse lead.

“I wanted to get going and get this 10-footer to save par, but I think having maybe just a couple minutes to calm me down, and then I actually got a different read when I sat down and looked at it again,” he said. “Good putt. Happy to finish that way.”

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Lyle birdies last hole in likely his final Open start

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 4:32 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – If this was Sandy Lyle’s final Open appearance, he went out in style.

Playing on the final year of his automatic age exemption, the 60-year-old Scot buried a 30-foot birdie on the last hole. He missed the cut after shooting 9-over 151 over two rounds.

“I was very light-footed,” he said. “I was on cloud nine walking down the 18th. To make birdie was extra special.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Lyle, who also won the 1988 Masters, has missed the cut in his last eight majors, dating to 2014. He hasn’t been competitive in The Open since 1998, when he tied for 19th.

To continue playing in The Open, Lyle needed to finish in the top 10 here at Carnoustie. He’d earn a future exemption by winning the Senior British Open.

“More punishment,” he said.

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DJ, Thomas miss cut at Open; No. 1 up for grabs

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 3:35 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The top two players in the world both missed the cut at The Open, creating the possibility of a shakeup at the top of the rankings by the end of the weekend.

Dustin Johnson became the first world No. 1 since Luke Donald in 2011 to miss the cut at the year’s third major.

Johnson played solidly for all but the closing stretch. Over two rounds, he was 6 over par on the last three holes. He finished at 6-over 148.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Thomas added to what’s been a surprisingly poor Open record. Just like last year, when he struggled in the second round in the rain at Royal Birkdale, Thomas slumped to a 77 on Friday at Carnoustie, a round that included three consecutive double bogeys on Nos. 6-8. He finished at 4-over 146.

It’s Thomas' first missed cut since The Open last year. Indeed, in three Open appearances, he has two missed cuts and a tie for 53rd.  

With Johnson and Thomas out of the mix, the No. 1 spot in the rankings is up for grabs this weekend.

Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm all can reach No. 1 with a victory this week.

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TT Postscript: Woods (71) makes cut, has work to do

By Tiger TrackerJuly 20, 2018, 3:32 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Here are a few things I think I think after Tiger Woods shot a second consecutive even-par 71 Friday in the second round. And yes, he made the cut:

• Tiger said all 71s are not created equal. On Thursday, he made three birdies and three bogeys. On Friday, he made four birdie and four bogeys. Which round was better? The first. His theory is that, despite the rain, conditions were easier in the second round and there were more scoring opportunities. He didn't take advantage.

• This is the first time since the 2013 Open at Royal Lytham & St. Annes that Tiger shot par or better in each of the first two rounds of a major. That’s quite a long time ago.

• Stat line for the day: 11 of 15 fairways, 13 of 18 greens, 32 total putts. Tiger hit one driver and two 3-woods on Thursday and four drivers on Friday, only one which found the fairway. An errant drive at the second led to him sniping his next shot into the gallery


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

• In his own words: “I could have cleaned up the round just a little bit. I got off to not exactly the best start, being 2 over through three, but got it back. The golf course was a little bit softer today, obviously. It rains, and we were able to get the ball down a little bit further, control the ball on the ground a little bit easier today, which was nice.”

• At some point Tiger is going to have to be more aggressive. He will be quite a few shots off the lead by day’s end and he'll have a lot of ground to make up. Hitting irons off the tee is great for position golf, but it’s often leaving him more than 200 yards into the green. Not exactly a range for easy birdies.

• Sure, it’s too soon to say Tiger can’t win a fourth claret jug, but with so many big names ahead of him on the leaderboard, it’s unlikely. Keep in mind that a top-six finish would guarantee him a spot in the WGC: Bridgestone Invitational in two weeks. At The Players, he stated that this was a big goal.

• My Twitter account got suspended momentarily when Tiger was standing over a birdie putt on the 17th green. That was the most panicked I’ve been since Tiger was in contention at the Valspar.