Twitter
Categories
Archives

Entries in Phil Mickelson (93)

2:41PM

Furyk on U.S. Ryder Cup shutout: ‘I bet we’ll be fine’

By Art Spander

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France — It was historic. It was embarrassing. The supposedly unbeatable United States Ryder Cup team turned out to be as soft as a croissant.

Not only did it fail to win any of the four afternoon matches Friday on opening day of the 2018 Cup, it couldn’t even come close.

In the alternate-shot format that vexes Americans even more than trying to correctly pronounce “Chantilly” — one golfer hits the tee shot, his partner the next shot — the U.S. couldn’t extend any match beyond the 16th hole.

So Europe, which lost three of the four-ball or better-ball matches in the morning, roared back to take a 5-3 lead and seemed destined to continue America’s frustration each time the biennial event is held on this side of the Atlantic. The U.S. hasn’t won in Europe since 1993.

With fans hooting and chanting as if they were at a soccer match and not a tournament at Le Golf National some 20 miles southwest of the Eiffel Tower, the Euros became the first team ever to record a shutout in alternate-shot, or foursomes, and the first to get a sweep in any session since 1989.

This wasn’t a match, it was a mismatch. It was Alabama against Arkansas State. It was bewildering, mystifying and nonsensical. The pairing of Phil Mickelson, at 48 surely playing his last Ryder Cup, and Bryson DeChambeau, at 25 playing his first, lost seven of the first eight holes, including five in a row to Sergio Garcia and Alex Noren.

On the 10th tee, Mickelson-DeChambeau were 7 down. Or if you want to make a drink of it, Garcia and Noren were 7 up. That Mickelson-DeChambeau lost only 5 and 4 proves something, but what no one is sure.

Mickelson was a captain’s pick by Jim Furyk, who apparently wanted Phil’s experience (this is his 12th Ryder Cup). Well, Mickelson now has a new experience with which he can relate: getting stomped.

Tiger Woods, another Furyk pick, didn’t play the afternoon alternate shots. In the morning, Tiger was paired with Patrick Reed, the Masters champion, and they were flattened by Tommy Fleetwood and Francesco Molinari, 3 and 1. A good job selecting by Furyk.

Of course, as the Euro captain Thomas Bjorn reminded, “The players play; we just try to get them ready.”

The U.S. hardly was ready for its collapse, or should it be Europe’s resurgence?

“They played great golf,” said Spieth of Fleetwood and Molinari. “Hats off to the Europeans. They were even or under par (in all four afternoon matches), and on this course, in that wind, that’s just fantastic in this format.”

You might presume that Furyk would be depressed the way his foursomes got whipped, but he carries a golfer’s eternal optimism, the belief that the next round will be, if not near perfect, then at least highly rewarding.

“In match play,” said Furyk, “you lose 6 and 5, you lose 2 and 1, it’s the same result. We have to shore things up. And I’m guessing we’ll switch things in the afternoon (Saturday). We’ve already been thinking about that.

“Does it pose a problem? I think our guys will respond. I really do. I have a lot of confidence in our guys. It’s going to leave a sour taste in their mouths, and they have to sleep on that. We’ll come back. I bet we’ll be fine.”

There are four more four-ball matches and four more foursomes Saturday. On Sunday, there are 12 singles. That used to be where the U.S. could be counted on to dominate, but in the 2012 Cup, in Chicago, it was the Euros who came from behind with victories in singles.

“There will be adjustments,” Spieth said of the alternate-shot session Saturday. “Foursomes, it’s a tough one. You know what team to throw out there.”

On Friday, whatever the team, it appeared to have been thrown under the bus.

“We knew it was going to be a grind,” said Rickie Fowler, who paired with Dustin Johnson was a 3 and 2 loser to Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson. “We struggled to get the momentum going, and when we did it was too late.”

It is no secret that the course was set up for the home team, narrow fairways to negate the power of people such as Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka. But the Americans should have been able to adapt.

“We thought this would be a good format for the tee shots,” said Mickelson, “hitting a bunch of irons off the tee. We just didn’t play our best.”

But the Euros did.

12:23PM

Ryder Cup is Phil Mickelson’s cup of coffee

By Art Spander

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France — The critic had mellowed. Or more accurately, swallowed. “The coffee here is unbelievable, isn’t it?” said Phil Mickelson, not waiting for an answer, as if anyone dared disagree.

“The chocolate,” Mickelson continued, “the food. I had two pieces of bread the other night. I can’t remember the last time I did that.”

Oh yes, Lefty, on stage, off the tee, full of opinions and occasionally himself, playing the game of life along with the game of golf, a personality with personality and one of the great short games.

He’s back for another Ryder Cup, his 12th, knocking balls around Le Golf National, a course some 20 miles from Paris, rather than knocking anyone in charge of the U.S. squad, a veteran who knows what club to hit and knows what to say — even when, perhaps, he should remain silent.

“You would think I would get desensitized to it,” Mickelson said of his years as part of the American team, “but I have come to love and cherish these weeks even more, this week especially, with the amount of not just talented players but quality guys that are on our team.”

He is 48, a generation apart from teammates Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Bryson DeChambeau, nearly six years older than Tiger Woods, his longtime rival.

Along with Woods, Mickelson, or “Philly Mick” as they call him in New York, was a captain’s pick for this year’s team, chosen as much for reputation as performance — although in March he did get his first Tour victory in five years.

Phil was not playing in Friday morning’s four-balls, or better ball, as America tries to end a streak of five straight defeats in Europe, and Mickelson was asked if that happens, after his insistence on change following the loss four years ago in Scotland, would it be one of the crowning achievements in his career.

“I would not look at it that way,” said a magnanimous Mickelson, “because this is a team event and this is an event for all of us to cherish and be part of, and every person from the caddies, the spouses, the captains, vice captains and every player plays an integral part of the puzzle to do well and succeed.”

Of course, four years ago, when the U.S. was pummeled at Gleneagles, Scotland, it was one man, Mickelson, who found a reason and pressed to correct that. Mickelson said that Tom Watson, the captain that year — and for a second time, overall — was unable to communicate with his players and removed them from any part of the decision-making.

The PGA of America, which controls the Ryder Cup — not to be confused with the PGA Tour — took Mickelson’s advice, altered the method selecting wild-card players and the made other fixes. The plan worked, and in 2016 the U.S. won the Cup at Hazeltine, near Minneapolis.

In the 2004 Cup at Oakland Hills outside Detroit, Mickelson was paired with Woods, a dream team that turned into a nightmare. In foursomes, when players hit alternate shots with one ball, Phil might drive into the rough and a glowering Tiger would be forced to extricate the ball with the subsequent shot. They barely looked at each other.

But 14 years make a difference. Now Tiger and Phil, relative golden oldies compared to a Spieth or Brooks Koepka, have arranged to play each other in a multimillion-dollar match. And Phil said he willingly would join Tiger in this Ryder Cup, although U.S. captain Jim Furyk did not give his endorsement,

“I think when we (Woods and Mickelson) really started to work together to succeed,” said Phil, “going back in the Ryder Cup and the Presidents Cup, we have a lot more in common than we thought, and we came to appreciate working together to achieve things.”

If time doesn’t cure all ills, it does help change perspective. Woods and Mickelson have reached detente at a time in their careers when they can’t always reach the green of a par-5 in two shots.

“When we go over the little details as to why we were or were not successful,” said Mickelson, “it sometimes comes out like I’m taking a shot at somebody. I don’t want to do that anymore.”

Peace in our time.

8:49AM

U.S. Open third round: Chaos among the sand traps

By Art Spander

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. — Chaos among the sand traps. Phil Mickelson playing by his own rules, or his interpretation of the rules. Dustin Johnson playing by the skin of his teeth.

The wind blew, the bogies grew and the 118th U.S Open turned into a golf tournament of as many opinions as strokes.

Johnson had his seemingly solid lead get away before recapturing part of it Saturday in an agonizing third round at Shinnecock Hills, which definitively didn’t let its reputation as a brutal, testing course get away.

The last time the Open was here, at the eastern end of Long Island, caught between the devil and the deep, blue sea, was in 2004, and Shinnecock was so unfair that the sponsoring body, the U.S. Golf Association, decided to water the greens in the middle of the fourth round.

This time, looking for redemption as well as a tough championship, the USGA said it had learned from past mistakes and would keep Shinnecock playable. But as approach shots rolled for miles after hitting greens and golfers lost strokes along with their confidence, that promise appeared not to have been kept.

The USGA apologized for course condtions, as if that would ease the pain of those with bad scores. "Thanks guys did Bozo set the course," tweeted Ian Poulter, who shot 76.

 David Fay, a former executive director of the USGA, went on Fox TV and said the course was “close to the edge,” but Zach Johnson, a former Masters and British Open champion, who shot a 2-over-par 72, insisted, “It’s not on the edge, it’s surpassed it. It’s gone.”

That was the word that we believed would apply to Dustin Johnson, who began the day with a four-shot advantage. But it was the advantage that was gone, in a virtual flash. Dustin made double bogey on two and bogies on four, six, seven and eight, and with a 6-over 41 on the front nine he fell behind last year’s winner at Erin Hills, Brooks Koepka, and Henrik Stenson.

When the round finally was done, however, Dustin Johnson, even shooting a 7-over 41-36-77, was in a four-way tie for first at a not-surprisingly high total (for the Open) of 3-over for 54 holes, 213.

Sharing with him were Koepka (72) and two golfers who, because they were so far back after two rounds, had morning tee times, and they beat the wind — and everybody else on the course — with 4-under 66s, Paul Berger and Tony Finau.

Another shot back at 4-over 214 was 2013 winner Justin Rose, who virtually one-putted everything in sight (at least on the front) for a 73. Stenson was at 5-over 215.

Mickelson, on his 48th birthday and as frustrated as anybody — while others kept their emotions in check — had an 11-over 81 that included a two-shot penalty for hitting a moving ball when it rolled off the green at 13.

Fay, the former chief, said on TV that Mickelson should have been disqualified, but the question is whether the golfer is trying to keep the ball from rolling away or just hitting it when it is rolling.

“Phil didn’t purposely deflect or stop the ball,” said John Bodenhamer, managing director of championships for the USGA, alluding to a rule.

What Phil did, however, was a poor reflection of a man who has won every major except the U.S. Open, as if he could do what he wants.

“It was going to go down in the same spot behind the bunker,” said Mickelson, referring to where he earlier had played from. “I wasn’t going to have a shot.” So he had 10 shots. “I know it’s a two-shot penalty.”

Yes, the Open drives men mad.

Rickie Fowler shot 84 Saturday. His total of 226 was one lower than Mickelson’s 227. That two golfers far out of contention became newsworthy is part of the Open’s mystique and confusion. A few rounds at a course where par is almost impossible has golfers talking — and the media listening.

“I didn’t feel like I played badly at all,” said Dustin Johnson. “Seven over, you know, usually is a terrible score, but I mean with the way the greens got this afternoon ... they were very difficult.

“A couple of putts today I could have putted off the green. But it’s the U.S. Open. It’s supposed to be tough.”

Shinnecock was. Very, very tough.

 

10:43PM

No fun for most on a tough day at the Masters

By Art Spander

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Tony Lema, a San Leandro kid whose brief life provided both success in and insight into golf, told us that the difference between the Masters and the U.S. Open is the difference between fun and fear.

Yes, the Open, with its narrow fairways and heavy rough, can be punishing. But the men who flailed around Augusta National on Friday in the second round of the 2018 Masters may have a definition of fun that is not quite the same as Lema’s.

Phil Mickelson, believing he had resurrected his game and his chances, had a triple bogey at nine, a double bogey at 12 and shot 79, seven over par. “Yeah,” said Mickelson, “it was a rough day.“

Tiger Woods had a double bogey and shot 75, three over. “I hit my irons awful today,” said Woods, who at least made the cut — as did Mickelson. “So many beautiful putts, but nothing went in today. Didn’t control distances, shapes or anything.”

Jordan Spieth, the overnight leader, started double bogey, bogey and then managed to shoot 74. “I just had two really bad tee shots the first two holes,” said Spieth, “and then the course was very difficult today.”

Not for Patrick Reed. He shot a 66 and is at 135, two shots in the lead. Or Marc Leishman, a 67 for 137. But for almost everyone else, Augusta, with a slight breeze and challenging pin positions, was a struggle.

Which, of course, is proper for a major championship. Otherwise it’s not a major. But there was that idea, endorsed by Lema, that with its wide fairways, the Masters was enjoyable. It has been for Reed. It hasn’t been for Matt Kuchar, who shot a 75 Friday and explained, “It was a very, very hard day.”

Mickelson and Woods have won multiple Masters. Spieth has a single victory. But all the course knowledge and fine play doesn’t mean much when a shot smacks a tree, as did Mickelson’s on nine, or flies into the bushes, as did Tiger’s on five.

Matt Kuchar, with a 38 on the back nine (forgive me, Masters Gods, for not calling it the “second nine”), was visibly frustrated after a three-putt at 18 and a 75 for 143. “It was a very hard day,” he agreed. “I thought I hit a bunch of real good shots and walked away with a bogey, which is part of how it works here.”

How it works here, there and everywhere, is if you hit a perfect tee shot, a perfect approach and then a perfect putt, you probably make birdie. Probably, because as every golfer, pro to hacker, knows full well, an erratic bounce or a gust of wind may spoil all the apparent perfection.

And while it’s hard to accept when you’re the one in the vise, it’s sometimes refreshing when you’re just watching. “It’s one of those days,” said Kuchar, who finished early on, “where I’m kind of anxious to kick my feet up in the house and watch the guys deal with it the rest of the afternoon.”

Please, Matt, didn’t you ever read that advice in the spectator guide from Bobby Jones, the Augusta founder, that we’re not supposed to cheer the mistakes and misfortunes of the competitor?

“It was tough from the get-go,” said Kuchar. “It was never comfortable. I think this place keeps you on edge because of the fact on almost every hole, the line between birdie and bogey is so fine.”

“You either have to be sharp,” he said, “or you really have to be clean. I felt I was doing a whole lot of scrambling, and for the most part I was getting away with scrambling pretty well.”

Mickelson didn’t get away with it.

“There’s a disappointment between wanting it so bad and then also letting it kind of happen,” said the 47-year-old Mickelson. “As you get older, you feel a little bit more pressure with each one. I thought this was a great year, a great opportunity.”

It was, but on a tough day, he couldn’t do much with that opportunity.

8:37PM

Ted Potter beats Dustin — and everyone else at the AT&T

By Art Spander

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — Ted Potter is what happens to golf. Which is the great thing about the game. Or, if you’re hoping for a winner who is famous, even familiar, conversely one of the problems.

It doesn’t matter if Potter isn’t one of those handsome young guys like Jordan Spieth or Dustin Johnson. Or one of those famous older guys like Phil Mickelson. He beat everyone, including Spieth, Johnson and Mickelson, to take the annual AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

Well, in a way it does matter, because golf, a sport without team loyalty as is tennis, needs instantly recognizable champions, so that those peripherally interested in the game won’t look up and ask, “Who’s he?”

Potter is a portly 34-year-old with thinning hair. You won’t be seeing him in any commercials. But after his three-shot victory Sunday, worth virtually $1.3 million, you will be seeing him high on the money list and, no less significantly, in the field of the Masters in three months.

You’d have thought Johnson, the world's No. 1, a two-time AT&T winner, would be the champion. He began the last round at Pebble Beach tied with Potter at 14 under par, and after two holes he had a one-shot lead.

But Dustin was the one who was stagnant, with a total of four bogies and four birdies, for a 72, while Potter, after a bogey on the first hole, made four birdies and no bogies over the next 17 holes for a 69.

That gave him a 72-hole total of 17-under 270. (Pebble and Spyglass Hill are par 72; the third course in the rotation, where Potter shot 62 Saturday, is Monterey Peninsula, par 71).

Tied for second at 273 were the 47-year-old Mickelson, who shot 67; Chez Reavie, 68; Day, 70, and Johnson. 

Potter, who turned pro out of high school in Florida, probably needed the victory more than Dustin and Phil, or Spieth and Day, major winners all. Nearly four years ago, in July 2014, after missing the cut in the Canadian Open, Potter, flip-flops on his feet, slipped off a curb near his Montreal hotel and broke his right ankle.

He was off the Tour for three years. Even at the AT&T, he entered as a Web.com Tour member and was unsure of getting into the coming week’s Genesis Open at Riviera in Southern California. But now he’s fully exempt, if still not fully known — by the public or some of his fellow competitors.

“There’s a lot of new guys I haven’t met in the last couple of years,” he conceded. ”It’s still an individual game.”

A game in which Potter, who six years ago won his only other Tour event, the 2012 Greenbrier Classic, struggled after his injury, at one point missing 24 cuts in a row. But fellow pro Russell Knox has said Potter is the most talented player he’s ever battled.

Talented, yes, but as Potter admits, a trifle lackadaisical. “I’ve never been a hard worker, I guess,” he said. “I mean, I’m probably better than I think I am.”

He and Johnson were in the final group Sunday, and even if it wasn’t match play there was a feeling of head-to-head. “I had a great day today,” Potter agreed. “Dustin wasn’t, I guess, on his game.”

Johnson said as much. He thought he was prepared, but shots just flew over Pebble’s small greens. They also did for Potter, but on the short par-3 7th, the signature hole, he chipped in for a birdie. “That was one of those moments,” said Potter, who hadn’t had many of late.

Mickelson, a four-time AT&T winner, made a strong run, an indication that although he doesn’t have a victory since the 2015 British Open, Phil might break through again.

“I’ve played similarly all four weeks,” Mickelson said of his rounds this year. “I’ve had much better results the last two weeks (he tied for fifth at the Waste Management Phoenix Open). I’m going to try and take the momentum and carry it to Riviera.”

As is Ted Potter, a Mr. Nobody who now very much is somebody.