Posted on: March 7, 2012 4:02 pm
Edited on: March 7, 2012 5:26 pm

Yes, really: Tiger, Lefty in a Masters friendly?

Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson planned to play a round at Augusta earlier this week but Woods backed out at the last moment. Mickelson joked that Woods was intimidated. (Getty)

By Steve Elling

DORAL, Fla. -- Guess they'll have to settle for their battle three weeks ago at Pebble Beach.

Though it sounds hard to believe, when Phil Mickelson made his annual trip up to Augusta National earlier this week for some Masters recon, he spent his practice time solely with new running mates Dustin Johnson and Keegan Bradley.

That's because Tiger Woods was a no-show.

Mickelson said Wednesday at the Cadillac Championship that two marquee players had planned to play together, but it fell through.

"I guess it was the intimidation," Mickelson cracked.

Playing in the same group as Woods three weeks ago at the AT&T National Pro-Am at Pebble Beach, Mickelson came from six shots back in the final round, shooting 64 to win. He beat Woods by 11 strokes that day.

In fact, Mickelson was full of whistling one-liners about Woods on Wednesday. When he was asked about the 8-under 62 that Woods shot last Sunday in the final round of the Honda Classic to nearly come from behind to win, Mickelson was in prime form.

"Obviously, [Tiger] was paying attention a couple of weeks ago, which is nice to see," he said, causing laughs from many in the room.

Some in the room clearly didn’t get the reference to Pebble Beach.

"At least I thought it was funny," Mickelson said, making a hand motion above his head. "Whoosh."

Publicists for both players said after Mickelson's press conference at Doral Golf Resort & Spa that they had no personal knowledge of any plans for the two to play together at Augusta National.

Check out the Eye on Golf Facebook page and follow Eye On Golf on Twitter.   

Posted on: May 5, 2011 9:13 am

Rory handles Masters mess with help from friends

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Rory McIlroy has friends with a rough sense of humor.

When the subject of his wild tee shot on the 10th hole in the final round of the Masters was light-heartedly broached this week at the Quail Hollow Club, the 22-year-old reached into his pocket and produced his cell phone.

"Let me show you this picture," he said.

When McIlroy's ball caromed off a tree and settled between two guest cabins on the left side of the 10th hole at Augusta National, where few golfers have ever tread, cameras struggled to get a shot of him, he was so far off the beaten path. The cameras eventually found him, however, and one of his friends snapped a photo of his television as the screen showed McIlroy in the distance, confused and trying to conjure up the yardage of his next shot.

He e-mailed the photo to McIlroy, who was in the midst of blowing a four-shot 54-hole lead with a final-round 80, as a joke. But wait, it gets even more cruel.

"He sent it to me during the round," McIlroy said.

Small wonder the popular Ulsterman doesn't have much ego, huh? Sounds like his friends would never let him hear the end of it, if he did.

Posted on: April 4, 2011 4:09 pm
Edited on: April 4, 2011 5:06 pm

Westwood takes flight in scary fashion

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- The beginning of Lee Westwood's week at the Masters Tournament turned out to be at least as memorable as his near-miss last year at the season's first major.

The world No. 2, who finished second to Phil Mickelson at Augusta National last spring, played Sunday at the Houston Open and was on board a private jet that evening to Augusta, Ga., when the plane began to fill with smoke.

Westwood was aboard the plane with fellow Ryder Cupper Ross Fisher, their two caddies, and their manager, Chubby Chandler of ISM.

The problem started a few minutes into the flight, said Stuart Cage, another agent at ISM who wasn't on the flight. The jet turned around and flew back to Houston. Players then boarded another jet.

"Chubby said that when he turned around, the pilots had their full masks on everybody else had nothing," Cage said Monday.

Case said the incident wasn't particularly serious, and was believed to have been related to an air-conditioning malfunction, though it gave everybody on board a decent scare.

"A little bit of a panic," Cage said.

Firemen were waiting for the group when they returned to the Houston airport and Westwood posted several pictures to his Twitter account.

He also quipped, "They're not here to put my putter out! That's not on fire!"

Westwood finished T30 in Houston. He also posted this photo of Fisher, on the right, and the two caddies, in back, looking more than a little nervous.


Here's one of the fire trucks responding after landing.


Category: Golf
Posted on: March 26, 2011 4:15 pm

Holmes could be home for the Masters

ORLANDO, Fla. -- J.B. Holmes' backdoor road to the Masters got a little steeper on Saturday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

The American veteran missed a four-footer for par on the 18th hole and finished with a 72, which dropped him five shots out of the projected spot he needs to target in order to secure a last-minute invitation to Augusta National in two weeks.

Holmes, ranked No, 59 in the world, needs to move up nine spots when the world ranking is recalulated after the final round on Sunday night. He was tied for 16th as he played the 18th, but pulled his approach into a greenside bunker and missed the par putt.

"It hit something because I hit it right where I wanted," Holmes grumbled of the spiked-up greens.

Holmes said he's not obsessing over his Masters fate. Depending on how things play out, he needs to finish somewhere between fourth and seventh to have a chance of moving up to No. 50.

"We've talked abot it,' Holmes said. "You need to play the Asian Tour or the European Tour to get in the top 50, I guess. You can't think about it when you;re out there playing, though."

Brandon Parsons, Holmes' caddie, said Holmes hasn't seemed fixated on making the Masters for the second time.

"I don't think so," Parsons said. "Just playing, doing our thing, just like at match play."

Holmes finished T5 at the Accenture Match Play, his most recent start.

As he signed his card, he had fallen into a tie for 21st at 2 under, which not only put him a shot farther back in the pack, but allowed at least another half-dozen guys ahead of him in line.

"Yeah, I'm going to need 5 or 6 under tomorrow," he said.
Posted on: March 25, 2011 7:13 pm

Langer surgery means Masters streak to end

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Maybe someday, when Bernhard Langer is bouncing a grandchild on his knee, the kid will ask how his Hall of Fame granddaddy's 27-year streak of playing at the Masters came to an end.

Hopefully, by then, Langer will have concocted a sexier story to unveil, because the truth is sorta embarrasing.

The Champions Tour star and two-time Masters winner had surgery on his left thumb Wednesday and will be out of commission for the next eight weeks, meaning his run at Augusta National has ended.

Langer hurt the thumb in a cycling accident, but that requires an asterisk of sorts. He had slowed down at an intersection near his home in Boca Raton, Fla., and was attempting to press the button on an electric pedestrian unit used at crosswalks when he missed his target and hurt the thumb. An IMG official said Langer hurt the thumb two months ago, tried to play through the pain and actually won a tournament in that span, but got a second opinion recently.

It was originally diagnosed as a sprain.

The surgery was conducted by the same doctor who handled the wrist/hand surgeries of Trevor Immelman and Luke Donald. 

Category: Golf
Posted on: March 25, 2011 6:50 pm

Masters hopefuls head opposite directions

ORLANDO, Fla. -- The last-gasp chances of two Masters hopefuls headed in decidedly opposite directions this week when Italy's Matteo Manassero missed the cut and American J.B. Holmes improved his standing to keep his hopes alive.

Manassero, attempting to become the first player to tee it up at the Masters two times before turning 18, struggled for the second day in a row at the Bay Hill Invitational and shot 3-over 75, missing the cut by a stroke.

This one might sting -- he played his last five holes in 2 over. A day earlier, he was playing nicely in high winds in the afternoon, but double-bogeyed the 18th hole.

Holmes, ranked No. 59 in the world, needs to move inside the top 50 by Sunday night to secure his second Masters berth. He shot a 3-under 69 and moved into a tie for 17th. Though it's been hard to estimate specifically where Holmes must finish because of the many moving parts involved with the fate of other players around him in the rankings, he more than likely needs a top-7 finish to have any chance.

At the halfway point, Holmes is seven strokes behind leader Martin Laird, but only four strokes out of a tie for fourth.

Posted on: March 18, 2011 3:16 pm
Edited on: March 18, 2011 3:54 pm

Masters bid a Manny-splendored thing

PALM HARBOR, Fla. -- It has almost passed without notice over the past three days.

Sure, it's terrific that rising Italian star Matteo Manassero, the youngest player ever to win a European Tour event, is in the field at the Transitions Championship. He's been interviewed a gazillion times already by American media who are quick to jump on fresh stories and flavors.

Left largely unsaid is why he's here in the first place.

Manassero, who answers to Manny, is playing in Tampa and at Bay Hill next week on sponsor exemptions in the hope that he can move up five slim spots in the world ranking by Sunday night at next week's Arnold Palmer Invitational.

That would jump him from 55th to 50 in the world and secure a last-ditch spot in the Masters, where he made his debut last year as a 16-year-old amateur. Manassero figures that a top-10 finish this week might do the trick since the field is pretty stout in ranking strength, partly due to the presence of world Nos. 1 and 7, Martin Kaymer and Paul Casey.

An Augusta National official confirmed Friday that Manassero is courting tournament history: No player has ever made two Masters appearances at 17 or younger. Not even Tiger Woods.

With play continuing in Friday's second round, Manassero had jumped to T8 at 6 under over two rounds, so if his math projections are sound, he's looking pretty good. Of course, he would then have to remain in the top 50 through next week, when others will be attempting 11th-hour rallies, too.

"It is pretty much the key as to why I am here," Manassero said after his second straight 68 on Friday. "It's a great event and it would be fantastic to get back."
Category: Golf
Posted on: March 16, 2011 4:28 pm

Casey won't mess up Masters chances by winning

PALM HARBOR, Fla. -- This is what you'd call a calculated risk.

World No. 7 Paul Casey won his lone PGA Tour title two years ago in Houston, then trekked the next week to the Masters full of momentum, mojo and brimming with confidence. He left Augusta National two days later after missing the cut.

This year, the pre-game plan has changed completely. In a move that probably won't make many Texas fans happy, Casey is skipping Houston and taking two weeks off before the Masters, which means his final tuneup is this week at the Transitions Championship outside Tampa.

The reasoning is fairly simple. It's partly an experiment based on past data.

Casey has a history of winning tournaments, then falling flat the next week in instances when he has played. It happened again this year when he won in Bahrain on the European Tour's desert swing, then missed the cut the following week in Qatar. Casey has noticed the trend and doesn't deny it.

So why not embrace it?

"We're trying something different," Casey said.

This way, he can't mess up his Masters chances by screwing up and winning in Houston. Yeah, it sounds sorta crazy, but it will be interesting to monitor his results at Augusta, for sure.

Casey has an odd record at Augusta National, where he finished T6 in his first appearance in 2004, which still represents his career best result. Ever since, he has two top-10s, a top-20 and has missed the cut twice.
Category: Golf
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com