Posted on: February 14, 2012 9:47 am
Edited on: February 14, 2012 9:48 am
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Posted on: February 14, 2012 9:46 am
Edited on: February 17, 2012 4:49 pm
By Steve Elling
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Gotta admit, this came as rather surprising news.
When Phil Mickelson slaughtered Tiger Woods by 11 strokes in the final round of the Pebble Beach Pro-Am on Sunday, blowing past the former world No. 1 like he was an unproven rookie, it wasn't even the worst head-to-head beat-down of Woods' career.
Or even of the past two years.
It was, however, the most lopsided score imbalance in a final round in Woods' considerable PGA Tour experience.
Mickelson started the final round six shots off the pace on Sunday, and after six holes, has already taken a two-stroke lead, leaving playing partner Woods and everybody else behind. For Woods, only twice before had he been whacked more brusquely by a playing partner.
Courtesy of former ABC Sports golf statistician Sal Johnson of Golfobserver.com, here are the gory details of Woods' most lopsided blowouts by a pairings mate.
Wells Fargo Championship
Paired with Angel Cabrera, who shot 67, while Tiger shot 79
Paired with Vijay Singh, who shot 63, while Tiger shot 75
Pebble Beach Pro-Am
Paired with Phil Mickelson, who shot 64, while Tiger shot 75
Paired with Davis Love, who shot 68, while Tiger shot 77
Paired with Vijay Singh, who shot 67, while Tiger shot 75
Greater Milwaukee Open
Third round, paired with Woody Austin, who shot 65, while Tiger shot 73
Posted on: February 11, 2012 8:17 pm
Edited on: February 17, 2012 4:49 pm
By Steve Elling
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
Posted on: February 7, 2012 6:40 pm
Edited on: February 17, 2012 4:51 pm
By Steve Elling
"Hey, Chopra," Woods said playfully, "where's my drink?"
Make it a double.
Sure, it was only a practice round, but Chopra pulled off a statistical rarity on Monday at the Pebble Beach Golf Links when he aced two holes in the span of a couple of hours, Nos. 7 and 17, two of the most famous par-3s in existence.
Chopra once made a double-eagle in PGA Tour competition in Las Vegas, but the two aces were off the charts. After making a rather understated ace on the par-3 seventh, a 103-yard hole, he knocked in a 7-iron on the 17th from 176 yards and went positively berserk.
"When the second one went in, I was like Tiger Woods on steroids," Chopra said of his reaction. "It was probably the most excited I have ever been on the golf course in my life."
Chopra was practicing and wasn't keeping score.
"I was on those two holes," he laughed.
In both cases, his first shot went in for an ace. Chopra said he's mustered 13 aces over the years either in live tournament play, practice rounds, pro-ams or casual rounds. But this was special because of the venue.
"At Pebble, my favorite course in the whole world," he said.
Since it was Monday, there weren't many fans around, but there were a few folks following Chopra around the course. One spectator saw both aces.
Said Chopra: "One guy came up to me and said, 'I'd never in my life seen a hole in one, and today I've seen two."
Making the double whammy even better was the fact that Chopra's caddie, Philip Hodge, a professional player himself in the past, had been needling him about having recorded more aces, 15, than Chopra. The two-time PGA Tour winner fired back with, "I'm going to make them right in front of you."
And on Monday, he did. Chopra said that as the second ball was tracking toward the hole, Hodge began to realize what was happening.
"I can hear it clear as day, he starts yelling, 'Nooooooooo,' " Chopra said.
Posted on: January 9, 2012 10:06 am
Edited on: January 9, 2012 11:11 am
Tiger Woods took a pass on opening his 2012 season at a famed California venue where he has been a dominant force, not to mention where he claimed one of the game's most memorable U.S. Open victories.
Instead, he substituted another.
Marking one of his earliest commitments to a PGA Tour event in years, Woods on Monday said he will open his U.S. season at Pebble Beach on Feb. 9.
In a move that has caused a good amount of conversation, Woods eschewed starting his season at Torrey Pines, instead electing to make his Jan. 26 season debut the same week on the European Tour in Abu Dhabi, where he will receive an appearance fee.
Woods won the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in 2008, his last Grand Slam win, and has six regular-tour wins at the seaside course. He won the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach by 15 shots, roundly considered the best performance by any player in major championship history.
The title sponsor at Pebble Beach is the same entity that backs Woods’ event in the Washington, D.C., area, the AT&T National, and the financial ties are a big reason for his presence in the field. He hasn’t played in the regular-season event at Pebble Beach since 2002, when painfully slow rounds were the norm.
Since then, the field has been pared from 180 pros and their amateur partner to 156, and Monterey Peninsula Country Club replaced Poppy Hills as one of the three courses used over 72 holes.
"I haven't been to this tournament lately, but I have a lot of good memories at Pebble,” he said on his website. “It will be fun going back."
In his most memorable regular-tour win at Pebble, Woods came from seven shots behind with seven holes to play to defeat Matt Gogel, now a Golf Channel broadcaster.
"It's always been one of my favorite spots," Woods said. "It might be the prettiest place on earth."
In his last start at Pebble, in the 2010 U.S. Open two years ago, Woods briefly contended but eventually finished T4, which matches his best finish in an official U.S. event since the sex scandal of late 2009. He closed with a 75.
Posted on: June 18, 2010 11:28 pm
Edited on: June 19, 2010 2:32 am
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Good thing Phil Mickelson’s wife and kids flew into town late Friday night. Otherwise, he would have been bored out of his gourd on Saturday.
Because tee times for the leaders have been pushed back close to 4 p.m. Pacific in order to ensure what figures to be a massive television audience on the East Coast, Mickelson will be cranking it up at 3:30 p.m. local time in the third round.
Thus, he’ll have to find a way to while away a few hours. Of course, it beats the heck out of the alternative,
“It’s cool,” he cracked. “It’s better than an 8 o’clock [a.m.] tee time.”
Rest assured, Lefty is clearly ready for prime time after matchng his career-low score in the Open.
Mickelson, the only player who can win the Grand Slam, shot the low round of the week by two shots on Friday with a 5-under 66 that jumped him 64 spots up the leaderboard and into a tie for second place, two strokes behind Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell.
Mickelson, who raked it all around the Pebble Beach Golf Links greens in the first round, was almost infallible on the putting surfaces a day later, reeling off five birdies in seven holes on his front nine to vault into a four-way tie for second with a group that includes three-time major winner Ernie Els. No question, Mickelson was the toast of Monterey after the way he roasted Pebble.
“It was spectacular all day,” playing partner Padraig Harrington said of Lefty’s round. “I got to see it first-hand. He didn’t miss a shot. It’s the best I have ever seen him play.
“It was as easy a 66 as you will ever see.”
The terms easy, 66 and U.S. Open have rarely been used in the same sentence, but that’s how well Mickelson played on Friday, when he positioned himself for yet another shot at the biggest title that has thus far eluded him. Mickelson, with a record five runner-up finishes in the Open already under his belt, said he hasn’t even begun to think about what the title would mean. That might be a wise choice, given the water under his professional bridge in this event.
“I'm in a good spot,” he said. “I don't look at the leaderboard, I don't look at other players. I look at par. This is the only tournament really in professional golf that brings out Bobby Jones’ old saying of ‘playing against Old Man Par,’ because if you just can stay around par you're going to be in the tournament on Sunday, and that's kind of the goal.”
Not-So-Old Man Mickelson turned 40 on Wednesday, and he isn’t exactly showing signs of wear and tear. If his misfires at the Open in the past are wearing on him, and some of them have been spectacular, it’s hard to tell.
“I think that was a pretty good kick in the pants,” caddie Jim Mackay said.
Now he can start planting his foot on the backside of others. With three career wins at Pebble Beach and four major championships to his credit, Mickelson will be the big favorite on the weekend. All of a sudden, those five second-place finishes at the Open seem like a good thing, because he’s seen all the event can offer at this point.
“I think it’s big,” he said of his experience.”I think it’s really big. It’s important to know how to play these holes under these conditions and how to make pars.”
His ascendance up the board was big for the tournament, too. No knock on McDowell, Dustin Johnson or the other less-heralded players in the mix, but a duel between Els and Mickelson, with seven majors between them, sounds pretty good right now. Els has two U.S. Open crowns already.
Mickelson wasn’t about to delve into hypotheticals or forecasting. In fact, he is squarely in the moment and reveling in it. A player many believed didn’t have the self-discipline to play the most demanding setups in the sport at the Open is again right where he wants to be.
Even if his late tee slot runs through dinner time.
“This is so much fun,” he said. “I don’t want the weekend to end.”
Posted on: June 17, 2010 11:38 pm
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Shaun Micheel called his mother on Thursday morning, just like he does every day when he is on the road, plying his unique trade.
As ever, the exchange was sobering and saddening, yet Micheel again seemed to draw a strange strength from it, knowing that her encouragement means everything.
Donna Micheel, 63, has cancer in so many parts of her body, it’s hard for Shaun to keep track. She doesn’t so much have good days and bad days, but bad days and worse days. When Shaun called before heading out to play in the first round of the 110th U.S. Open, as he does each morning, she wasn’t feeling particularly well.
“She gets pretty nauseous, and she can be pretty descriptive about how she is feeling,” he said. “The thing is, I have a hard time telling her, ‘I hope you feel better.’ Because she won’t.”
After opening with a 2-under 69 at Pebble Beach, the 2003 winner of the PGA Championship not only is leading the toughest tournament in golf, he’s dealing with the soul-sapping reality of mortality.
Told she had only a few months to live when first diagnosed last year, Micheel’s mom had stubbornly fought back and all but ordered her son to continue playing as she deals with the inevitability of her situation. Fighting guilt because he’s not near the family home in suburban Memphis to lend a hand, Micheel is somehow soldering on during his road weeks.
“I am just hoping for a miracle,” he said.
The pragmatist in him knows it isn’t likely. Micheel teared up during his post-round television interview when the subject of his mom’s plight was broached. Yet after finishing T4 last week in Memphis, the family crisis became public, though Shaun somehow finds it “cathartic, therapeutic,” to talk about the situation rather than stew silently over the unfairness of facing the loss of his mom at a relatively young age.
On the course Thursday, since golf allows for so much idle time, his mind invariably though of the fight back home.
“It makes me smile, makes me want to work hard, makes me want to dig deep,” he said. “For her.”
Donna was the one who drove him to tournaments as a kid and did all the things moms do for their sons while dad is off at work. Including insisting that he get back on the road and play, because there’s nothing much he can do to help with her plight at home.
“Every single day I think about her and I'm really playing for her,” he said. “I think a lot about what Dan Jansen did in the Olympics when he was out ice skating and speed skating. Every time I feel like I'm in a tough situation, I think about my mom and all the events that she went to as when I was a collegiate and all the events that she took me to as a kid and dropping me off at the golf course.
“There's so many great things about that. It seems to have made my life a little bit easier. I certainly wish she didn't have this illness, but sometimes you rise under difficult situations. And it might be the first time in my life that I'm actually playing better and feel good about myself with the pressure that I have.”
Speaking of which, the plan last week was that if Shaun was winning in Memphis, his dad, Buck Micheel would wheel Donna out behind the 18th in a wheelchair to watch her son win his second PGA Tour title. He finished a shot out of a three-man playoff.
“I was trying to win for her last week,” he said. “I was excited about playing in front of the hometown crowd. I had a lot of great momentum carrying over from the qualifier and everything. I played well. I really didn’t expect to come up one shot short.
“She wasn’t able to make it out … It’s tough. I’m trying to play for her. It’s nice because I’m playing for somebody else. It’s always been about me, me, me. What am I gonna shoot, what’s my money list, where am I in the fed ex cup?
“Forget all of that. It just doesn’t matter to me anymore. I love my mom. What do you say? I mean, she’s hanging in there.”
So is Micheel, who has only limited status on tour this year because he fell out of the top 125 in earnings last year and didn’t finish high enough in Q school to regain his full card. He had major shoulder two years ago and is fighting through a complicated issue with a chemical shortfall in his body, which requires a special exemption from the tour so that he can take additional testosterone.
But it pales when compared with his mom, who is so sick, she is smoking medical marijuana to deal with the nausea. Though the news is rarely good, Shaun dutifully calls home every morning.
“This morning she said she didn’t feel good and he said, ‘Well, you will be able to watch golf all day,’” Stephanie Micheel, Shaun’s wife, said.
We’re guessing what she witnessed was the best medicine possible. He birdied three of the last five holes and shares the lead with Paul Casey and Brendon de Jonge.
“We’re trying to take advantage of every moment we can,” Stephanie said. “We just don’t know how many moments we have left.”
Posted on: June 5, 2010 11:49 am
DUBLIN, Ohio – Their hand-wringing was without cause.
Well, mostly, anyway.
Several players in the field at the Memorial Tournament expressed concerns about rumors they'd heard about practice-round access next week at Pebble Beach, which will host the U.S. Open starting June 17. One major champion said he’d heard that players would be charged $490 per spot, apparently the going rate for civilians, and that it they wanted to practice alone, they would have to buy the whole foursome slot at a cost of nearly $2,000.
Not the case, the USGA insisted Saturday. However, there are some unusual obstacles the Open field will have to dance around while practicing, since Pebble Beach is probably the world’s most lucrative daily fee track and any closures means a big revenue hit.
Limited guest play is being allowed through Tuesday, USGA rules and competition chief Mike Davis said Saturday from Pebble Beach, where he is fine-tuning the course. On Wednesday, Golf Digest is filming a mini-tournament featuring celebrities and an amateur.
“We asked the players that, if they want to play Wednesday, they stay as far away from the Golf Digest thing as they can,” Davis said.
On Thursday and Friday, it gets even more crowded, because a Pebble Beach-sponsored event is being held all morning, with a shotgun start, and players likely won’t have access to the course until after lunch. Davis said the USGA agreed to be more flexible on availability during the run-up week.
“Closing the course means the hotel is closed,” Davis said of the revenue bite Pebble would face. “But players will be able to play. I think that’s reasonable.”
At least when the Open-eligible players get to California, the weather ought to be decent. As an aside, unlike the downpour that hammered Memorial all morning and delayed the start of play several times before Saturday’s third round, Davis was standing on the sixth green at Pebble as he spoke on his cell phone and said the weather was glorious.
“Perfect,” he said.