Posted on: February 11, 2012 8:17 pm
Edited on: February 17, 2012 4:49 pm

Tiger and Phil, yin and yang, paired at Pebble

By Steve Elling 

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- Who are these guys, Abbott and Costello? Hall and Oates? Peanut and butter?

Break 'em up as a team and they mostly flop?

As we all know painfully too well at this point, Tiger Woods has been missing in action for more than two years, and in that span, his nemesis Phil Mickelson didn’t do much of anything.

In fact, over his last 37 PGA Tour starts, dating to his victory at the 2010 Masters, and as he freely admits, hasn’t exactly used the door that Woods left wide open when his personal and physical issues left him sidelined for most of the period since.

Mickelson not only didn’t take advantage, he went backward and enters this week's Pebble Beach Pro-Am  in much the same position he's held for his career -- ranked right next to Woods in the world pecking order. It's just that these days, Mickelson is 16th and Woods is 17th.

So, of course, with Woods showing flashing red-light signs that his slump is over, Mickelson picks this week to perk up?

The pair of longtime adversaries, California natives and multiple-time winners at Pebble Beach will be paired in the final round on Sunday at the famous seaside links, with the title in reach for both.

Woods is in third place, four shots behind Charlie Wie, while Mickelson is T4 and six strokes back. Let the jockeying and jocularity begin.

These guys have combined for an incredible 110 career PGA Tour wins -- Woods (71) ranks third and Mickelson (39) is 10th -- but with Woods injured and ailing, and Lefty playing listlessly, they are a mere 1-for-59 in terms of victories in recent U.S. starts.

Neither player knew of the final-day pairings when the left the course after play concluded Saturday night, but here's how they stack up in the times they have been paired in PGA Tour play over their careers. Woods holds a 13-12-4 margin when paired with Lefty, who in recent years has actually played better than the former world No. 1 when grouped eye-to-eye:

Year        Event                            Round   Mickelson     Woods
1997        PGA Championship        Rd 4        75                75       
1997         NEC Invitational             Rd 2        72                72       
1997        TOUR Championship      Rd 2        72                68       
1998        Nissan Open                   Rd 1        67                68
1998        Nissan Open                   Rd 2        76                73
1999        U.S. Open                       Rd 3        73                72       
2000        NEC Invitational              Rd 3        69                67       
2000        Buick Open                     Rd 3        65                67       
2000        TOUR Championship      Rd 1        67                68       
2001        PLAYERS Championship  Rd 3        72                66       
2001        Masters Tournament       Rd 4        70                68       
2002        TOUR Championship       Rd 1        70                71
2002        TOUR Championship      Rd 4        69                70       
2003        Buick Invitational            Rd 4        72                68       
2005        Ford Championship        Rd 4        69                66       
2006        Ford Championship        Rd 3        72                68       
2006        PGA Championship        Rd 1        69                69
2006        PGA Championship        Rd 2        71                68       
2007        Deutsche Bank              Rd 1        70                72
2007        Deutsche Bank              Rd 2        64                64       
2007        Deutsche Bank              Rd 4        66                67       
2008        U.S. Open                      Rd 1        71                72       
2008        U.S. Open                      Rd 2        75                68
2009        Masters Tournament     Rd 4        67                68
2009        WGC-HSBC Champions Rd 4        69                72
2010         BMW Championship     Rd 4        67                70
2011        WGC-Cadillac                Rd 1        73                70
2011         WGC-Cadillac               Rd 2        71                74
2011        WGC-Cadillac                Rd 3        72                70


Posted on: February 2, 2012 10:17 am
Edited on: February 2, 2012 5:26 pm

Mickelson sues to quash on-line Canucklehead

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Attention flamers, vicious posters and other reputation-savaging knuckleheads who hide behind the anonymity of chatroom walls while tossing grenades at others:

Phil Mickelson is fighting back.

In a move that could bring unintended light to a very personal issue, Mickelson filed suit in Canada to learn the identity of a person who has been ripping him on the Internet.

According to the Courthouse News Service, Mickelson alleges in the complaint that "the postings suggest that plaintiff has an illegitimate child, that his wife has affairs and other similar vexatious statements that are absolutely untrue and, simply put, vicious.”

Mickelson has long been dogged by wild and absurd rumors, and his wife Amy has even been known to make jokes with friends about them.

But nobody’s kidding around this time.

"I'm all for freedom of speech, but I won't tolerate defamation, and so I've got a great attorney who's on it," he said after the first round of the Phoenix Open on Thurday.

Mickelson sought and was granted by San Diego Superior Court the right to subpoena Yahoo! for information about the identities of two screen names, "Fogroller" and "Longitude," and Yahoo! responded with Fogroller's Internet protocol address, which is registered to a Videotron subscriber, according to the Courthouse News report.  

The news report states that Videotron's attorney said Mickelson needs a court order for the company to provide him with the information. In the filing, Mickelson seeks the court order.

"It is urgent, and in the best interest of justice, to accurately identify the person using the 'Fogroller' pseudonym and posting these offensive and defamatory statements, in order to stop the dissemination of false and wrongful statements about the plaintiff and obtain reparation for the prejudice already suffered," the complaint states, according to Courthouse News.

Reparation, of course, is the legal euphemism that broadly means "blood and money."


Category: Golf
Posted on: February 1, 2012 5:09 pm

Phil goes back to drawing board for Torrey

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Phil Mickelson signs more autographs than any star player on the PGA Tour.

He can also put a drafting pencil to paper.

An exclusive report in the San Diego paper this week noted that Mickelson has privately talked with high-ranking city officials about updating Torrey Pines North, the sister course to the more famous South layout, in the future, a redesign that’s been under discussion for years.

Mickelson said he’d do the tweaks for free.

“I tried to underbid everybody,” he said Wednesday at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. “That was the goal.”

Chalk up a win in that regard. It’s already generated a ton of attention, and in a cash-strapped city like San Diego, minimizing cost might help get a deal struck. Torrey Pines is one of the nation’s most famous municipal layouts and Mickelson, a native son, would mostly be viewed as a dream candidate for the post.

In fact, Mickelson, 41, is talking like it’s a done deal.

Mickelson played his high-school matches at Torrey and said he’d be a good steward of the property and would endeavor to make the canyons and trees part of the experience, and not just elements of a pretty view on the horizon.

 “It has been a dream of mine to turn that golf course into what I know it can be,” Mickelson said at TPC Scottsdale. “We will spend countless hours making sure that that course is right because the goal -- the first goal, is to make it playable. 

“It's got to be playable for everybody. It's a daily golf course, municipal golf course.  Everybody has got to go out and enjoy it. The other thing is that the character is not being brought out right. The character of the canyons and the beauty of that place has not been pulled into the golf course. 

“It's been separated. The canyons are on one of the side of the golf course and then there's been no integration, so the character that we bring out will try to enhance the natural beauty that's already there. There will be a lot more rustic areas ... Kind of a rough canyon look, if you will, where I'm going to make the hard holes harder, but I'm going to make the easy holes easier. 

“I want guys having fun on some of these holes. The second hole is going to be moved up and shorter, little examples. We pretty much have it mapped out how we want to make it.”

So clearly, he's not just ad-libbing here. It's been on his draft board for a while.
On the design front, Mickelson has been famously critical recently of designer Rees Jones, who remade the South Course a decade ago. Mickelson, a three-time tour winner at Torrey, has struggled there ever since. Lefty has some definite views on course architecture that he has increasingly espoused publicly.

“I'm excited about this opportunity because it's the most beautiful canvas out there, and it has not been utilized properly, and I feel like after playing for so many decades and looking at these courses and appreciating all their beauty, to try to take that and integrate it into a course that just -- that I love is a fun opportunity,” he said.

Posted on: November 18, 2011 1:44 am
Edited on: November 18, 2011 10:01 am

New mates Lefty and Furyk pave way for U.S.

ORLANDO, Fla. – The guy who grew up within blocks of the course hadn’t often seen the Presidents Cup’s venerable host venue with more teeth bared.

The greens were turning a crispy brown, the winds whipped players and shots all over the property, tree limbs rattled overhead and the conditions were as tough as anybody had seen in the history of the competition.

“Royal Melbourne doesn’t get any harder than this,” said Geoff Ogilvy, an International team veteran and a former caddie at the famed Melbourne track.

That said, who better, then, to lead the American charge than the two most experienced players on the squad, a pair who has just about seen everything the game has to offer?

The pairing of international veterans Phil Mickelson and Jim Furyk, who both played in the Presidents Cup matches at Royal Melbourne in 1998 and have some familiarity with the venue, held on to win 2-and-1 in their best-ball match Friday and remained unbeaten after two days of the play.

It’s been the most pleasant surprise of the week for the Yanks.

Born within a month of each other -- they attended rival schools in Arizona -- the two 41-year-olds were paired at the request of Mickelson, who thought they might mesh effectively. They have turned into the best twosome on the American side, which split six matches Friday and holds a 7-5 lead with two days of play remaining.

Few would have envisioned Lefty and Furyk leading the way after the decidedly mediocre seasons each experienced. Furyk, the PGA Tour Player of the Year in 2010, didn’t win a tournament this year and Mickelson rarely contended after winning in April in Houston. Both have had huge issues this season on the greens.

But in whistling winds at Royal Melbourne, they were at their experienced best. All Mickelson could do was laugh afterward at the difficulty of the course, where the greens were harder than linoleum.

“This is crazy,” Mickelson said. “When you get winds like this on greens that are 14-plus on the Stimpmeter, it’s hard to imagine because you never see it at a local club.

“This was a case where we were trying to read the wind on putts. Apparently, we did a good job because Jim made a bunch of good, solid four- and five-footers.”

Mickelson, who was unbeaten in the last Presidents Cup matches in San Francisco two years ago, is 6-0-1 in his last seven matches in the event. He has played in all eight Presidents Cup matches and Furyk has made the team six times.

Amazingly, they had never been paired.

Despite playing with a broad range of partners, Mickelson is now undefeated in his last 10 matches at the event and has absorbed one defeat in his last 17, dating to 2005.

At the other end of the spectrum was teammate Tiger Woods, the third member of the current team who played at Royal Melbourne in 1998. Woods and partner Dustin Johnson lost 1 up, leaving Woods as the lone American player who hasn’t scored at least a half-point after two days.

Woods, a controversial captain’s pick by Fred Couples, was on the losing end of a 7-and-6 decision on Thursday, which matched the most lopsided loss in event history.

Over two days, Woods has been credited with two birdies in two days, though his play improved on Friday.

Still, it marked only the second time Woods has lost two consecutive matches at the Presidents Cup -- the other instance was at Royal Melbourne in 1998, when he lost three matches in a row.

Woods fell to 5-8-0 in best-ball play at the Presidents Cup, giving him more losses in the format than any other player in event history. The former No. 1 and his two partners have only won one hole over two matches this week, over a span of 30 holes played.

Category: Golf
Posted on: September 4, 2011 12:42 pm

Mickelson torches Boston, no thanks to new putter

NORTON, Mass. -- Rest assured, Phil Mickelson's latest experimental toy had little to do with his result Sunday morning at TPC Boston.

Mickelson again had a new belly putter in the bag when he matched the low round of the week at the Deutsche Bank Championship, but it contributed almost nothing to do with his 8-under 63, which tied his best score of the season.

In fact, he sounds less committed than at any point since he added to his arsenal earlier this week as a means of fixing his maddeningly unpredictable putting stroke.

"It's day to day," he said of the controversial move to a belly putter. "I don’t know whether I’ll use it tomorrow. It's got some merits to it ... it takes some adjustment."

The other 13 clubs were certainly well calibrated in the third round at TPC Boston. After admittedly sloughing off practicing his long game to try to get the nuances of the belly putter figured out, Mickelson called swing coach Butch Harmon on Saturday night and made a few adjustments.

Outside of the first 10 holes in the final round of the British Open in July, Mickelson hadn’t played a better stretch all year, including his third-round 63 in Houston, site of his only victory this year.

After making the cut on the number and starting the day 11 shots behind a trio of co-leaders, Mickelson birdied three of the first four holes, then birdied the first two on the back nine. After a poor drive into the deep rough on the 12th, he hacked out a 7-iron from 173 yards that landed six feet from the hole and dived in for an eagle.

At that point, at 7 under through 12, thoughts of a 59 crossed his mind.

"Absolutely, I did," he said. "Had I made a couple of more putts thereafter, I might have had a chance."

Likewise for if he'd converted anything before the eagle, too. For the day, the longest putt he made was from 11 feet and he missed six putts from 16 feet or closer to the cup.

Mickelson was noncommittal about whether he'll stick with the belly model going forward, because he's having a hard time judging the speed of the ball as it comes off the clubface, a common complaint of many belly users.

"It's something I need to spend a little more time on in the offseason," he said.

But the rest of his game was firing at full-bore capacity, which hasn’t happened often over the past two years, when Mickelson has been admittedly looking for answers. he has five top-five finishes this season, the fewest in 14 years.

"I've been struggling, obviously," he said. "I've been struggling, a lot. Hopefully this gives me some momentum for the rest of the FedEx Cup.

"Today I hit it as well as I have in a long time."

In an interesting statistical footnote, the last six times Mickelson has shot 63, he's ultimately won the tournament. The last time he posted that score and didn’t win was at the Bob Hope Classic in 2003, when he finished T6.

He likely will require another 63, or better, to have a prayer at winning the title in Boston for the second time. Tied for last among those who made the cut, Mickelson played in the fourth group off the tee Sunday, and by the time he finished had climbed to T6, but it was two hours before the leaders began play.

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 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: August 26, 2011 4:14 pm
Edited on: August 26, 2011 4:18 pm

Lefty: No issue with Tiger, still wants Bradley

EDISON, N.J. -- Phil Mickelson throttled back his Presidents Cup lobbying just a tad on Friday.

Two days after he said that rookie Keegan Bradley should be the first player selected with one of the two captain's picks for the cup matches in Australia this fall, Mickelson said he couldn't find fault with Fred Couples' surprisingly early decision to name Tiger Woods to the team.

Couples, the U.S. captain, said Thursday that he has already told Woods he's on the 12-man team, though the two at-large picks were not formally due to be announced for another month.

Bradley won the PGA Championship two weeks ago and has two victories in his first PGA Tour season. Points are accrued over two seasons and Bradley stands 18th on the U.S. list. Only the top 10 are assured berths.

"I still feel the same way and nothing has changed," Mickelson said, reacting to Couples' selection of Woods. "I don't have a problem with Tiger being picked.

"But I think that Keegan has had a great year and has only been able to get points for this season, and not last season. I think he deserves it for his play already."

It looks increasingly like Bradley might need the at-large pick. He shot 74 in the second round and missed the cut at The Barclays on Friday, so he won't be moving up the U.S. points list this week for sure.

On Wednesday, Mickelson offered some impromptu support for the rookie, a frequent playing partner in practice rounds: "This is his first year. Meaning he was not allowed to make Presidents Cup points [in 2010] and he's had arguably the best year for any U.S. player. I think he needs to be a pick if he doesn't get on it on his own."

Later that day, Lefty said he believed Bradley deserved to be named as the first pick. Obviously, with Couples' highly contentious decision to pick Woods four weeks early, that didn't happen.

As for why Couples didn't use the coming month to vet all of the players in the at-large pool before making a decision, Mickelson didn't venture a guess.

"I think you could argue either way," he said of Couples' move, "but there are a lot of good things that come from Tiger being on the team."

Woods is No. 28 on the U.S. points list.

Rising American player Gary Woodland, considered an at-large candidate while enjoying a breakout season, stands at No. 25 in points and said he had no issues with Woods getting the nod, either. In fact, Thursday's news was hardly a surprise based on what Couples told prospective team members three months ago.

Apparently, Couples has been locked in on Woods for several weeks, his freefall down the world ranking notwithstanding.

"He told us that [Woods was a likely pick] when he met with us back at the Memorial," Woodland said of Couples' intentions. "I've played sports long enough to know that you have to makes these teams outright or you put your fate in the hands of other people."

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