No urgency to win Open? Mickelson is fooling himself

By Ryan LavnerJune 16, 2015, 11:54 pm

UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. – Hmmm … what to give Phil Mickelson for his 45th birthday?

The man has almost everything, of course, so how about a harsh reminder: Historically speaking, this is likely his last chance to win that elusive U.S. Open.

Golf’s toughest major only gets more difficult to win as the years and scar tissue pile up.

Hale Irwin is the oldest winner of this championship; he was 45 years and 15 days old when he won in 1990. If Mickelson were to hoist the silver trophy on Sunday, he’d be only 10 days younger.

Not that he’s celebrating the big 4-5 with any added pressure.

“I don’t feel that sense of urgency that you’re talking about,” he said Tuesday.

OK, but should he?

Mickelson is still in relatively good shape. The past few years, his body couldn’t withstand the long hours on the range, but with a renewed emphasis on fitness and diet he can now beat 400 or 500 balls without fear of wearing down.

Another thing to consider: Lefty hasn’t suffered a debilitating injury that has sidelined him for months. He has always had a long, flowing swing, and those players tend to be more durable over the long run as opposed to those with a short, violent motion. 

“If I continue to do what I’ve done the last eight months or so,” he said, “there’s no reason why I couldn’t play at a high level for a while.”

First-round tee times: 115th U.S. Open

But there have been signs recently that Mickelson is beginning to realize his golfing mortality.

He’s always endured highs and lows during his Hall of Fame career, but his last 23 months have been even more sporadic than usual. In the 41 events since his last win, at the 2013 Open Championship, Lefty has mustered only five top-5 finishes. Two of those have been runners-up in the last two majors. Another two have come in the past five weeks, including at last week’s FedEx St. Jude Classic (T-3).

Isn’t that remarkable? Even if he’s struggling, even if he’s searching, even if he has done practically zilch for the past year, Phil has still summoned his best stuff in the biggest moments to nearly steal the darn thing.

There are no simple, rational explanations for this, but that didn’t stop a few of the world’s best from trying.

“He’s still got plenty of power,” said Rickie Fowler, one of Mickelson’s frequent practice-round partners. “He’s still got all the shots in the bag. You could come up with a short-game shot and you’re not really going to ask anyone else other than him to hit it if there was a must-make up-and-down.

“He still impresses me with his game. Yeah, he turned 45 today, but I’m not looking to see him go away anytime soon.”

Every athlete watches his physical skill diminish over time, though. It’s a sad inevitability. So for Lefty, there must be something more, something deeper.

This is his 23rd full season on Tour, and for the better part of the past quarter century he has thrilled fans with his swashbuckling, go-for-broke style.

He isn’t afraid to win, which also means that he isn’t afraid to lose, sometimes spectacularly. His star-crossed history in this event only underscores that point: From Shinnecock to Winged Foot to Merion, Phil has been humbled like few in his sport ever have, but he’s never been afraid of losing, of failure, of getting his heart broken and then falling in love again.

“I can imagine if he’s up there in contention, he doesn’t really care if he finishes second or 15th or 18th or whatever,” Martin Kaymer said. “He wants to win.”

Whether he actually can this week is still very much uncertain. Listen to him closely, break down his sound bytes, and he seems just as likely to miss the cut as he is to contend.

“I feel like I’m back on the upswing,” he said … but a few minutes later he conceded that his revamped game is still “in its infancy.”

“I don’t know how far or how long it will take to get it really sharp,” he said. “I feel like it’s on the verge of coming around. I’ve said that for a while now, but I feel closer and closer each day.”

Which brings us to Chambers Bay, and what is shaping up as Mickelson’s last best chance to win a U.S. Open.

Funny, because before his breakthrough at the 2013 Open Championship, few would have given him a chance on this links-style layout. That thrilling comeback at baked, brown Muirfield not only changed the public’s perception of Mickelson, but also his view of himself, having adapted his free-swinging, sky-ball game to win across the pond.

Though not a traditional links, man-made Chambers exhibits many of the same qualities as Muirfield or St. Andrews, with rock-hard fairways, wispy fescue rough and severe, undulating greens that, above all, test a player’s short game and imagination.

That just so happens to be Mickelson’s area of expertise, and he lit up Tuesday when describing how players must play shots into banks and slopes and hillsides to funnel the ball close to the hole.

“You don’t have to be perfect,” he said. “You have a bigger margin of error.”

So maybe this is just the venue Mickelson needs to nab that elusive Open.

He better hope so. History suggests that, at 45, his time is running out.

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Storms halt Barbasol before Lincicome tees off

By Associated PressJuly 20, 2018, 11:29 pm

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - Brittany Lincicome will have to wait until the weekend to resume her bid to make the cut in a PGA Tour event.

Overnight storms delayed the start of the second round Friday in the Barbasol Championship, and an afternoon thunderstorm suspended competition for good. The round will resume Saturday morning with much of the field still to play.

The second stoppage at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came 20 minutes before Lincicome's scheduled tee time.

Lincicome was near the bottom of the field after opening with a 6-over 78 on Thursday. The first LPGA player since Michelle Wie in 2008 to start a PGA Tour event, she needs a huge rebound to join Babe Zaharias (1945) as the only female players to make the cut.

Troy Merritt had the clubhouse lead at 15 under, following an opening 62 with a 67.

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Third-round tee times for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 9:05 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Eighteen major champions made the cut at The Open and will be playing the weekend at Carnoustie, including 60-year-old ageless wonder Bernhard Langer, and both major champs so far this year, Patrick Reed and Brooks Koepka.

Twenty-four-year-old Gavin Green will be first off solo Saturday at 4:15 a.m. ET. Reed and Rhys Enoch will follow along 10 minutes later.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, both at even par for the tournament, six shots behind leaders Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner, are in consecutive groups. Mickelson is playing with Austin Cook at 8:05 a.m. and Woods is with South Africa’s Shaun Norris at 8:15 a.m.

Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler, both three shots off the lead, are also in consecutive groups. Fowler is at 10 a.m. with Thorbjorn Olesen and Spieth is 10 minutes later with Kevin Chappell. Rory McIlroy, looking to win his first major since the 2014 PGA Championship, is at 10:40 a.m. with Xander Schauffele. McIlroy is two shots behind.

Johnson and Kisner are last off at 11 a.m.

4:15AM ET: Gavin Green

4:25AM ET: Rhys Enoch, Patrick Reed

4:35AM ET: Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Justin Rose

4:45AM ET: Yusaku Miyazato, Tyrrell Hatton

4:55AM ET: Ross Fisher, Keegan Bradley

5:05AM ET: Ryan Fox, Jason Dufner

5:15AM ET: Bryson DeChambeau, Henrik Stenson

5:25AM ET: Tom Lewis, Sam Locke (a)

5:35AM ET: Paul Casey, Chris Wood

5:45AM ET: Bernhard Langer, Rafa Cabrera Bello

6:00AM ET: Paul Dunne, Brett Rumford

6:10AM ET: Masahiro Kawamura, Shubhankar Sharma

6:20AM ET: Cameron Smith, Brendan Steele

6:30AM ET: Marc Leishman, Lee Westwood

6:40AM ET: Byeong Hun An, Kevin Na

6:50AM ET: Julian Suri, Adam Hadwin

7:00AM ET: Gary Woodland, Si-Woo Kim

7:10AM ET: Yuta Ikeda, Satoshi Kodaira

7:20AM ET: Marcus Kinhult, Thomas Pieters

7:30AM ET: Beau Hossler, Haotong Li

7:45AM ET: Cameron Davis, Sean Crocker

7:55AM ET: Louis Oosthuizen, Stewart Cink

8:05AM ET: Phil Mickeslon, Austin Cook

8:15AM ET: Tiger Woods, Shaun Norris

8:25AM ET: Lucas Herbert, Michael Kim

8:35AM ET: Jason Day, Francesco Molinari

8:45AM ET: Sung Kang, Webb Simpson

8:55AM ET: Patrick Cantlay, Eddie Pepperell

9:05AM ET: Matthew Southgate, Brooks Koepka

9:15AM ET: Kyle Stanley, Adam Scott

9:30AM ET: Charley Hoffman, Alex Noren

9:40AM ET: Ryan Moore, Brandon Stone

9:50AM ET: Luke List, Danny Willett

10:00AM ET: Thorbjorn Olesen, Rickie Fowler

10:10AM ET: Jordan Spieth, Kevin Chappell

10:20AM ET: Zander Lombard, Tony Finau

10:30AM ET: Matt Kuchar, Erik Van Rooyen

10:40AM ET: Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele

10:50AM ET: Pat Perez, Tommy Fleetwood

11:00AM ET: Kevin Kisner, Zach Johnson

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Facial hair Fowler's new good-luck charm

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 8:12 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Before, during and after the Fourth of July, Rickie Fowler missed a few appointments with his razor.

He arrived in the United Kingdom for last week’s Scottish Open still unshaved and he tied for sixth place. Fowler, like most golfers, can give in to superstition, so he's decided to keep the caveman look going for this week’s Open Championship.

“There could be some variations,” he smiled following his round on Friday at Carnoustie.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

At this rate, he may never shave again. Fowler followed an opening 70 with a 69 on Friday to move into a tie for 11th place, just three strokes off the lead.

Fowler also has some friendly competition in the beard department, with his roommate this week Justin Thomas also going for the rugged look.

“I think he kind of followed my lead in a way. I think he ended up at home, and he had a little bit of scruff going. It's just fun,” Fowler said. “We mess around with it. Obviously, not taking it too seriously. But like I said, ended up playing halfway decent last week, so I couldn't really shave it off going into this week.”

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Spieth (67) rebounds from tough Round 1 finish

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 7:55 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Guess whose putter is starting to heat up again at a major?

Even with a few wayward shots Friday at Carnoustie, Jordan Spieth made a significant climb up the leaderboard in the second round, firing a 4-under 67 to move just three shots off the lead.

Spieth showed his trademark grit in bouncing back from a rough finish Thursday, when he mis-clubbed on the 15th hole, leading to a double bogey, and ended up playing the last four holes in 4 over.

“I don’t know if I actually regrouped,” he said. “It more kind of fires me up a little.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Spieth missed more than half of his fairways in the second round, but he was able to play his approach shots from the proper side of the hole. Sure, he “stole a few,” particularly with unlikely birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 after errant drives, but he took advantage and put himself in position to defend his claret jug.

Spieth needed only 25 putts in the second round, and he credited a post-round adjustment Thursday for the improvement. The tweak allows his arms to do more of the work in his stroke, and he said he felt more confident on the greens.

“It’s come a long way in the last few months, no doubt,” he said.

More than anything, Spieth was relieved not to have to play “cut-line golf” on Friday, like he’s done each start since his spirited run at the Masters.

“I know that my swing isn’t exactly where I want it to be; it’s nowhere near where it was at Birkdale,” he said. “But the short game is on point, and the swing is working in the right direction to get the confidence back.”