Tag:boston friday
Posted on: September 2, 2011 5:31 pm

Mickelson goes with gut instincts, shoots 70

NORTON, Mass. -- Keegan Bradley doesn't look like the pied piper.

But in a reverse twist, the PGA Tour rookie is ... corrupting his elders, who are following him in famous droves.

Two of the most decorated stars in the game, Jim Furyk and Phil Mickelson, credited the reigning PGA Championship winner with helping them understand the tricky subtleties of the belly putter, which Mickelson put in his bag for the first time Friday at the Deutsche Bank Championship.

"I think that any way Phil putts, he'd make anything," Bradley said Friday. "But it's really an honor to have Phil talk to me about anything in terms of the game. I even hesitate saying anything to him because he's one of my heroes."

Even heroes take an occasional fall.

Lefty needed a bandage for his ailing putting stroke, and after using the longer belly model intermittently during his pro-am on Thursday, Mickelson left his short putter in the locker room and went with the controversial belly at TPC Boston, where he finished with a 1-under 71.

He certainly had moments of both competence and confidence, mixed with some deserved consternation.

Mickelson birdied the first two holes from just beyond 8 feet, and made a couple of par-saving putts from 5 and 6 feet on the back nine. Yet he also missed birdie attempts from 10 and 11 feet later in the round, which included a three-putt from the fringe on the third hole.

He had 29 putts in all, which put him in the middle of the 98-player pack at T52 when he finished, but indicated it's going to remain in the bag -- at least for now.

"I got off to a great start with it," he said. "I though it went welll and I feel that I probably putted better with that putter than I would be with the short putter, so I will end up using it for the rest of the tournament, I would anticipate.

"I don't know if it is a short-term or long-term thing, but it looks pretty good. I feel pretty good with it. I felt like I wa starting them on line and I've got to get comfortable with the speed and so forth, which is a little different, but ... right now it feels pretty good."

So, while the reviews were rather tempered, some think the belly might be just the tonic for Lefty's increasingly twitchy touch. Longtime tour swing coach and television analyst Peter Kostis, watching the Deutsche telecast from home, called the belly model "perfect" for Mickelson's putting stroke.

With the butt of the club anchored in his abdomen, Mickelson can't extend or shorten his arms at the elbows on the backswing or after impact. The club swings like a perfect pendulum, like a weight attached to the end of a string.

"That's what's been missing in his stroke, in my opinion," Kostis said.

Mickelson also spent time with his new golf psychologist, Julie Elion, on the putting green before the round, so he is clearly looking for answers to questions. Since winning the Masters last year, he has one victory in the ensuing 17 months.

Mickelson had a difficult time explaining how, or if, the belly is better suited to his stroke. It's only been in the bag for a matter of hours.

"I honestly don't know, I haven't spent enough time with it," he said. "The guys who have used it for a long time, Brendan Steele, Keegan Bradley has putted very well with it, Martin Laird, Webb Simpson, whose guys know a lot more about it, the intricacies of it, but it felt good. I enjoyed it. I had fun today."

Mickelson said there was some awkwardness, since he has putted with his hands ahead slightly ahead of the ball at address and impact for most of his career.

"You can't forward press," he said. "It just passes my hands, so it's a different stroke, so that's probably why it's a little bit more awkward at first for me because I am used to keeping the hands ahead and this time the club is passing my hands."

The ranks of the belly converts continue to swell. One group ahead of Mickelson, potential Presidents Cup player Bill Haas used a belly putter for the third tournament of his career, and second in succession.

Posted on: September 2, 2011 3:26 pm

Matteson saves his best for ballpark, not bullpen

NORTON, Mass. -- Ever have one of those days on the range, when you're hitting it everywhere, or nowhere, and wondering if you should even bother to play?

Of course you have. Ditto Troy Matteson.

In fact, it happened to the PGA Tour veteran on Friday, moments before he teed off in the first round Deutsche Bank Championship.

For a guy who barely made the field -- he's ranked 97th in FedEx Cup points and the top 100 were eligible -- that's not an enviable position when heading to the first tee.

"It was kind of interesting this morning warming up," he said. "I would have said if I could have kept it under 80, I would have been doing pretty good."

Maybe he meant miles per hour, because Matteson stomped on the gas to take the early first-round lead with a 6-under 65 at TPC Boston.

"It just was not that good of a warm up this morning," he said. "Bogeyed my first hole right out of the gate, and that didn't really set the tone very well for the day.

"So I looked at my caddie and said, look, we've just going to focus on making some birdies. The birdie count hasn't quite been where we needed it."

He managed seven more after the bogey on his first hole, No. 10 on the scorecard. Matteson was cracking jokes about his FedEx situation, since he clearly needs a big finish to crack the top 70 and advance to the next event in Chicago in two weeks.

"Let's not get ahead of ourselves," he laughed, when told he was projected to jump to third in points oif he wins. "Even though it is Friday."

Translated: This week's event started a day later than the PGA Tour norm and runs Friday through Monday.

In an interesting bit of reverse psychology, the former Georgia Tech star said he's basically playing with no eye on the horizon at all.

"Obviously, where I'm at, if I don't play well I'm not going to play next week," he said of the Chicago event. "So I look at it like the end of the school year. The end of the school year is almost here, so let's just see what happens. 

"Your expectations probably lower a little bit. Then all of a sudden you make a few birdies, and it's like, well, that's not too bad."

Category: Golf
Posted on: September 2, 2011 2:42 pm
Edited on: September 2, 2011 2:57 pm

Bradley burned out, but burning bright in Boston

NORTON, Mass. -- The hometown kid has had a whirlwind week.

No, that's not a Hurricane Irene joke, though Keegan Bradley surely feels like a leaf in the wind, as many directions as he's been blowing in his return to his hometown.

The 93rd PGA Championship winner threw out the first pitch at Tuesday's Boston Red Sox game and flipped the opening coin at the New England Patriots game on Thursday. Meanwhile, he's playing before a few hundred friends and family this week, just miles from where he was the state champion in high school.

"I was joking that I wouldn't mind if my next tournament was in Northern Alaska," Bradley cracked.

No, he's not complaining, but when he had to get up at 5 a.m. on Friday to make his opening tee time at the Deutsche Bank Championship, he was admittedly dragging. Somehow, he mustered a 3-under 68 that left him T7 after the morning wave at TPC Boston, where he once shot 32 for nine holes in a high school match.

He's been besieged by ticket requests, and estimated that between 30-50 friends were on the course with his group on Friday, including six-time major winner Pat Bradley, an LPGA Hall of Famer. He was getting so many messages, he had to pawn off the ticket-brokering duties.

"My mom took over for me," Bradley said.

His dad, a longtime PGA club professional, stodd in the parking lot after Bradley's round and did interviews for Boston-area TV outlets for 30 minutes. Rightly so, since Bradley was the lone American to win a major this year, and as a rookie, no less.

Bradley admitted the week has sapped his energy and that there was some pressure to perform. Not to mention the butterflies he had at Fenway Park.

"It was a little intense, because I wanted to play well in front of those guys," he said of his Friday round.

"I didn't expect that many people."

Category: Golf
Posted on: September 2, 2011 2:27 pm

Can Charl hop, skip and jump to FedEx crown?

NORTON, Mass. -- Nobody even needed to ask the question.

Yeah, PGA Tour rookie or not, Charl Schwartzel knew the playoffs history.

The reigning Masters champion skipped the first round of the FedEx Cup sweepstakes last week, knowing full well that Jim Furyk and Tiger Woods each had missed the series opener in the past and eventually won the series title and $10 million bonus, anyway.

In the midst of a killer scheduling stretch, he elected to roll the dice as far as his placement on the points list.

"I sat at home in South Africa and watched you guys dodge hurricanes," he said.

No, he wasn't kidding. The Barclays got swacked last week by an earthquake and Hurricane Irene. He was safe and sound and sleeping back in his homeland.

As a member of both the PGA and European tours, that was the only smart move, he said. When he shot an opening 66 at TPC Boston on Friday, he looked all the wiser.

"I was always OK with the decision," he said. "My end of the year is very busy. I'd have been on the road for 13 weeks in a row."

As it stands, he's still a very solid 28th in points. When asked if he would have bailed on Barclays if rules required him to play all four FedEx series events, he nearly laughed.

"No," he said, "that would have been stupid. But Jim Furyk and Tiger Woods both won and skipped a week."

When he finished in the morning, the young South African had the lowest score on the board. After signing his card, he was immediately asked to submit to a tour drug test.

"It happens every time I play well," he groused. "It's really not random."

Category: Golf
Posted on: September 2, 2011 1:41 pm
Edited on: September 2, 2011 1:43 pm

Watney atop TPC board, not family social register

NORTON, Mass. -- You get the feeling that no matter what Nick Watney does this week, even if he shot 59 and won the Deutsche Bank Championship by 20 strokes, it wouldn't quite be enough.

He was reminded of that during his pro-am round on Thursday, when fans were yelling out the name of a certain relative who is just a little bit famous in this particular area.

"I must have heard her name yelled 100 times in the pro-am," Watney laughed.

This being ground zero for Boston Red Sox nation, we're talking about his cousin, Heidi Watney, the fetching and popular sideline reporter for the team over the past few seasons.

Watney opened with a 4-under 67 and was two strokes off the morning lead at TPC Boston, located about 40 miles from Beantown proper. He's third in the FedEx Cup rankings, and has a $10 million bonus and the tournament title within his sights.

But in this burgh, he's second banana on the familial register. Heidi, like Nick, is a native Californian. Her father Mike was Nick's golf coach at Fresno State, though she attended college in San Diego and earned a degree in communications.

You know, so she could get a real job.

Given the astounding foothold that the Red Sox hold as far as popularity, and that ratings on the New England Sports Network are always through the roof, Nick's got some work to do before he supplants his cousin in this particular town.

Not that he has much of a chance. Just ask a local BoSox fan. Nick has no prayer.

"Ha,'' laughed Keegan Bradley, the PGA Championsip winner and an area product. "No, definitely not."

All of this will make a lot more sense after viewing this website dedicated to Heidi: www.heidiwatney.net

Posted on: September 2, 2011 11:58 am
Edited on: September 2, 2011 12:06 pm

Start bellyaching: Mickelson uses long putter

NORTON, Mass. -- Phil Mickelson didn't go long in the batting cage on Thursday night at Fenway Park.

But he's going long with his putter at TPC Boston.

Mickelson left his regular-length putter in his locker at the Deutsche Bank Championship on Friday, and walked off for his first-round tee times armed with a trendy, controversial belly putter instead.

"The short one's not coming out," he said, motioning toward the locker room.

As is his pre-round pattern, Mickelson spent several minutes practicing on the greens, this time with his new sports psuchologist, Julie Elion watching close by. He chatted with several other pros on the green about his new putter, which is anchored lightly in hs abdomen, including Brendan Steele, a frequent playing partner in practice rounds who also uses a belly model.

The biggest laugh came when Robert Garrigus showed Mickelson his putter, which measures about 30 inches and is the shortest on the PGA Tour. It was about half as long as Mickelson's model.

Mickelson ranks T45 in total putting this season and has missed a notable number of short ones inside three feet, which is where belly and broom models have been known to help other players.

As for his stint in the batting cages Thursday night before the Red Sox game against the Yankees, Mickelson didn't leave the yard.

"I thought I could get one out, but I couldn't quite," he laughed.

Mickelson threw out the ceremonial first pitch, firing a strike to pitcher Tim Wakefield behind the plate.

"Fastball," Mickelson said.

Mickelson, who has one win this season, tees off at 12:28 p.m. ET with Gary Woodland and Jonathan Byrd.

Posted on: September 2, 2011 11:00 am

TV deal in place, but what about the Commish?

NORTON, Mass. -- With much of the heavy lifting done, will he stay to bask in the glory?

With the PGA Tour's most pressing issue now nailed down and the TV deal with crucial network carriers CBS and NBC extended for another decade, other business beckons for Commissioner Tim Finchem, including re-signing FedEx as the sponsor of the $35 million playoff series.

Yet with the TV rights fees set, for an unprecedented period of time, another logical query is whether Finchem will stick around for when the decade-long deal kicks in.

His contract expires after next year he seemed rather ambivalent on Thursday when asked about whether knocking off the TV deal would increase the likelihood that he'd want to continue running the show.

All the mostly good-natured height and lawyer jokes aside, Finchem, 64, has managed to keep the tour cruising along in black ink despite the worst economic mess since the Depression, and for that, he deserves more than a polite golf clap. Purses continue to increase. Title sponsors continue to be located or re-signed.

All things considered, he's been a miracle worker, especially at a time when figurehead Tiger Woods' future is a complete question mark.

"My contract runs through '12," Finchem said after his TV press conference, when asked about his future by CBSSports.com. "The issues about how long I stay aren't really related to the details of this contract, but it's something I've got to address, and I'll be talking to our board and players about it, and I haven't made any firm decisions in my mind about whether I would leave."

Finchem started as commissioner in 1994. 
Category: Golf
Posted on: September 2, 2011 10:41 am

Unlike Jersey, Boston basks in perfect weather

NORTON, Mass. -- No earthquakes, no tornado warnings, no hurricanes.

Nothing but blue skies, perfect temperatures and red numbers on the scoreboard.

Unlike last week's FedEx Cup opener, there are no interruptions expected from Mother Nature over the first couple of days at the Deutsche Bank Championship, although rain is possible for the final two rounds on Sunday and Monday.

Based on the first few minutes of play, the 70-degree temperatures projected for Friday's first round have been to everybody's liking -- two-time past champion Vijay Singh was among the leaders for the third straight week and veteran Jerry Kelly was 5 under on his opening nine at TPC Boston.
In the final two rounds, there's a projected 30 percent chance of thunderstorms, hardly an unusual forecast for this time of year, however.

The trio of FedEx points leaders -- Dustin Johnson, Nick Watney and Matt Kuchar -- tee off together at 8:10 a.m. ET.

Category: Golf
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