Mickelson's short-game work pays off with 66

By Will GrayApril 2, 2015, 8:33 pm

HUMBLE, Texas – Hey, we’ve seen this guy before.

You know, the player who saunters around the course brimming with confidence, flashing grins and thumbs-up in equal measure. The guy who exudes comfort on and around the greens, rolling in putt after putt with ease.

Perhaps spurred into action by the calendar’s transition to April, Phil Mickelson appears ready to play some golf.

Mickelson flew into town late Wednesday, and he teed it up in the opening round of the Shell Houston Open without a practice round. Not an issue when your record over the last four years includes a win and no finish worse than T-16.

His thorough course knowledge paid dividends Thursday, as Mickelson opened with a 6-under 66 to grab a spot on the leaderboard, three shots behind Scott Piercy.

“It was a good first round, good start to the tournament,” Mickelson said. “There will be some low scores, but I’m just glad I was one of them.”

Roughly 12 hours after landing in Houston, Mickelson hit the course and quickly got to work. A chip-in birdie on No. 10 was followed by birdies on 12 and 13, and when he curled in a 20-foot putt on No. 17, his eighth hole of the day, Mickelson offered a pair of fist pumps – perhaps the first such display of emotion since last summer at Valhalla.

This was supposed to be a bounceback season for Mickelson, but thus far his results have been much of the same. Six starts have yet to yield a top-10 finish, and his runner-up at last year’s PGA Championship remains the lone bright spot across his last 30 appearances.

Shell Houston Open: Articles, videos and photos

But the Golf Club of Houston appears to be a cure-all for Lefty, just as it was last year when he tied for 12th. While signs of progress were evident last week at the Valero Texas Open, Mickelson struggled around the greens over the weekend and tied for 30th place.

“This is a big week for me. I felt the game was close last week,” he said. “The only thing missing was chipping and short game.”

It was a familiar refrain from Mickelson, whose short-game woes led to missed cuts earlier this year at both TPC Scottsdale and Torrey Pines, two typically Lefty-friendly venues. While most of the field was sweating through practice rounds this week in the humidity, Mickelson was back home in California grinding on his short game.

“I spent three days working on chipping, which I haven’t done in a long time,” he said.

Those efforts yielded immediate results, as his opening chip-in sparked a round that included only 26 putts. Mickelson rolled in six birdie putts, including three over 8 feet. Those makes seemed to be contagious, as his three-ball that also included Hunter Mahan and Patrick Reed combined to shoot 15 under par.

“Phil got off to a great start,” said Mahan, who shot 5-under 67. “I think when you see one or two putts go in, it definitely does help.”

With no shortage of storylines brewing for the Masters – from who will win to who will simply show up – Mickelson’s struggles have nearly made him an afterthought leading into the season’s first major. He is listed at 25/1 to win by the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook, higher odds than eight other players including five who are in search of their first major.

He last lifted a trophy at the Open Championship nearly two years ago, but that drought has not deterred Mickelson heading into a stretch of the season where he has so often shined. He won this event in 2011, not to mention three wins at the now-defunct BellSouth Classic in the same spot on the calendar.

While next week’s event remains a large goal, he is keenly aware that a run to a fourth green jacket begins now.

“The best way for me to give myself the best chance next week is to get into contention this week,” Mickelson said.

Just as much of the country begins to shed a winter’s worth of snow, Mickelson’s game appears to be heating up right on cue. Players often speak of trying to peak for the four majors each year, but few have been able to do so with as much success or consistency as Mickelson – especially when it comes to this particular two-week stretch.

“It’s fun to start playing well,” he said. “To feel good with the parts of the game and, you know, three more good rounds will give me momentum for next week.”

The Phil Mickelson of old was on full display Thursday, and while it remains to be seen if he can carry this form with him down Magnolia Lane, even the longest journeys begin with a single step.

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Vegas helicopters in to Carnoustie, without clubs

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 9:33 am

Jhonattan Vegas did some range work, putted a little and strolled to the first tee for his 5:31 a.m. ET start in the 147th Open Championship.

Everything before that, however, was far from routine.

Vegas' visa to travel to Scotland expired and the process to renew it got delayed - and it looked like his overseas' flight might suffer the same fate. Vegas, upon getting his visa updated, traveled from Houston, Texas to Toronto, Canada to Glasgow, Scotland, and then took a helicopter to Carnoustie.

He arrived in time on Thursday morning, but his clubs did not. Mizuno put together some irons for him and TaylorMade got him his preferred metal woods. He hit the clubs for the first time on the range, less than 90 minutes before his start.

"I'm going to go out there and play with freedom," Vegas told Golf Channel's Todd Lewis.

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How to watch The Open on TV and online

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 5:40 am

You want to watch the 147th Open? Here’s how you can do it.

Golf Channel and NBC Sports will be televising 182 hours of overall programming from the men's third major of the year at Carnoustie

In addition to the traditional coverage, the two networks will showcase three live alternate feeds: marquee groups, featured holes (our new 3-hole channel) and spotlight action. You can also watch replays of full-day coverage, Thursday-Sunday, in the Golf Channel app, NBC Sports apps, and on GolfChannel.com.  

Here’s the weekly TV schedule, with live stream links in parentheses. You can view all the action on the Golf Channel mobile, as well. Alternate coverage is noted in italics:

(All times Eastern; GC=Golf Channel; NBC=NBC Sports; GC.com=GolfChannel.com or check the GLE app)

Monday, July 16

GC: 7-9AM: Morning Drive (stream.golfchannel.com)

GC: 9-11AM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

GC: 7-9PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

Tuesday, July 17

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

Wednesday, July 18

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

Thursday, July 19

GC: Midnight-1:30AM: Midnight Drive (stream.golfchannel.com)

GC: Day 1: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 1: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 1: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 1: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

Friday, July 20

GC: Day 2: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 2: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 2: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 2: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

Saturday, July 21

GC: Day 3: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

NBC: Rd. 3: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 3: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 3: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 3: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 3-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

Sunday, July 22

GC: Day 4: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

NBC: Rd. 4: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-2:30PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 4: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-2:30PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 4: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-2PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 4: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-2PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 2:30-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

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The Open 101: A guide to the year's third major

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 5:30 am

Take a look at some answers to frequently asked questions about The Open:

What's all this "The Open" stuff? I thought it was the British Open.

What you call it has historically depended on where you were. If you were in the U.S., you called it the British Open, just as Europeans refer to the PGA Championship as the U.S. PGA. Outside the U.S. it generally has been referred to as The Open Championship. The preferred name of the organizers is The Open.

How old is it?

It's the oldest golf championship, dating back to 1860.

Where is it played?

There is a rotation – or "rota" – of courses used. Currently there are 10: Royal Birkdale, Royal St. George's, Royal Liverpool and Royal Lytham and St. Annes, all in England; Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland and St. Andrews, Carnoustie, Royal Troon, Turnberry and Muirfield, all in Scotland. Muirfield was removed from the rota in 2016 when members voted against allowing female members, but when the vote was reversed in 2017 it was allowed back in.

Where will it be played this year?

At Carnoustie, which is located on the south-eastern shore of Scotland.

Who has won The Open on that course?

Going back to the first time Carnoustie hosted, in 1931, winners there have been Tommy Armour, Henry Cotton (1937), Ben Hogan (1953), Gary Player (1968), Tom Watson (1975), Paul Lawrie (1999), Padraig Harrington (2007).

Wasn't that the year Hogan nearly won the Slam?

Yep. He had won the Masters and U.S. Open that season, then traveled to Carnoustie and won that as well. It was the only time he ever played The Open. He was unable to play the PGA Championship that season because the dates conflicted with those of The Open.

Jean Van de Velde's name should be on that list, right?

This is true. He had a three-shot lead on the final hole in 1999 and made triple bogey. He lost in a playoff to Lawrie, which also included Justin Leonard.

Who has won this event the most?

Harry Vardon, who was from the Channel Island of Jersey, won a record six times between 1896 and 1914. Australian Peter Thomson, American Watson, Scot James Braid and Englishman J.H. Taylor each won five times.

What about the Morrises?

Tom Sr. won four times between 1861 and 1867. His son, Tom Jr., also won four times, between 1868 and 1872.

Have players from any particular country dominated?

In the early days, Scots won the first 29 Opens – not a shocker since they were all played at one of three Scottish courses, Prestwick, St. Andrews and Musselburgh. In the current era, going back to 1999 (we'll explain why that year in a minute), the scoreboard is United States, nine wins; South Africa, three wins; Ireland, two wins; Northern Ireland, two wins; and Sweden, one win. The only Scot to win in that period was Lawrie, who took advantage of one of the biggest collapses in golf history.

Who is this year's defending champion?

That would be American Jordan Spieth, who survived an adventerous final round to defeat Matt Kuchar by three strokes and earn the third leg of the career Grand Slam.

What is the trophy called?

The claret jug. It's official name is the Golf Champion Trophy, but you rarely hear that used. The claret jug replaced the original Challenge Belt in 1872. The winner of the claret jug gets to keep it for a year, then must return it (each winner gets a replica to keep).

Which Opens have been the most memorable?

Well, there was Palmer in 1961and '62; Van de Velde's collapse in 1999; Hogan's win in 1953; Tiger Woods' eight-shot domination of the 2000 Open at St. Andrews; Watson almost winning at age 59 in 2009; Doug Sanders missing what would have been a winning 3-foot putt at St. Andrews in 1970; Tony Jacklin becoming the first Briton to win the championship in 18 years; and, of course, the Duel in the Sun at Turnberry in 1977, in which Watson and Jack Nicklaus dueled head-to-head over the final 36 holes, Watson winning by shooting 65-65 to Nicklaus' 65-66.

When I watch this tournament on TV, I hear lots of unfamiliar terms, like "gorse" and "whin" and "burn." What do these terms mean?

Gorse is a prickly shrub, which sometimes is referred to as whin. Heather is also a shrub. What the scots call a burn, would also be considered a creek or stream.