Archives for posts with tag: Phil Mickelson

Let’s be honest– the PGA Championship is the Ringo of Golf Majors.  Much like the Australian Open in tennis– the PGA is a Grand Slam event because you NEED four to have a grand slam (unlike the Champions/Senior Tour that has 5 grand slam events).  But even though Richard Starkey was not as talented as John, Paul or George he remains a Beatle for life.  Likewise–the winner of the PGA Championship gets to count that towards his major title total.  The Players Championship claims “fifth major” status–but really they’re just the Pete Best/Stu Sutcliffe/George Martin.  Close to greatness but not in the Fab Four.  Speaking of Fab Four–Rory McIlroy wins his fourth career major by one shot at 16 under par.  Other thoughts relating to Rory and Ringo…:

 

Boys— Rory’s win comes on a weekend dominated by youth:  he’s 25 as is Ricky Fowler who tied for third (after consecutive runner-up finishes at the US and British Opens).  Victor Dubuisson (24 years old) tied for seventh while Brooks Koepka (24) and Jason Day (26) tied for 15th.  Was this weekend the first page of a new chapter?

 

I Wanna Be Your Man— McIlroy’s victory was his second PGA Championship.  He joins notables like Lee Trevino and Gary Player in the group ahead of one-time winners but behind Jack Nicklaus (5) and Tiger Woods (4) in the stroke-play era (the PGA Championship used to be decided in match-play until the late 1950’s).  Rory also wins two majors in the same calendar year– a feat last accomplished by Padraig Harrington in 2008.  He also moves up the ladder with four majors–only 27 men have accomplished that feat (including both Old Tom Morris and Young Tom Morris from the 19th century).  The top ranked player in the world has every reason to believe there will be more majors.

 

Honey Don’t— despite not being as desirable a tournament as the Masters (tradition!), US Open (it’s our national championship!) or British Open (the birthplace of golf!)– the PGA is one tough tournament to win.  Tom Watson and Arnold Palmer never won the PGA.  Likewise for multiple-major winners Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo and Ernie Els.  While many think Rickie Fowler will eventually break through at the major championship level–many were saying the same thing when a 19-year old Sergio Garcia finished second to Tiger Woods in the 1999 PGA Championship.  And we’re still waiting…

 

Act Naturally— McIlroy shot 66, 67, 67 and 68 en route to victory.  His back nine dominance helped him regain the lead Sunday after Mickelson and Fowler surged ahead…starting with an eagle on 10 (the same hole he double-bogeyed in the first round).  McIlroy finished 12 under par on the back nine (-4 on the front nine) for the tournament– taking a two shot lead with a birdie putt on 17.  It still wasn’t over though…

 

What Goes On— Phil Mickelson was THIS CLOSE to stealing the spotlight on what was the Rory Coronation Party (after two days of the Will Tiger Make the Cut Mystery)…barely missing a pair of shots on the 16th and 18th holes.  His chip on 16 holed out-robbing him of a birdie before Mickelson missed the par putt.  Phil’s chip on 18 almost went in–if it had he’d have carded an eagle and there would have been a playoff.  Which probably would have meant we would have finished the tournament Monday– just like in 2005 when lefty triumphed.

 

Yellow Submarine—  skies of blue they weren’t Sunday afternoon…as rain interrupted the final day of play and forced a semi-furious finish where McIlroy was battling darkness as well as Mickelson and Fowler.  (Beatle aside– Ringo always said the best drumming he ever did was on “Rain”–the B-side to “Paperback Writer”).  On the 18th Rory hit his approach shot while the duo had yet to putt.  Thank goodness nobody was hurt.  It did feel uncomfortable watching Rory watch Phil and Rickie before he could proceed with his round.  Made for solid TV…except for those complaining about the pre-emption of 60 Minutes.

 

With a Little Help from My Friends— Chris Wood had one memorable Thursday…and it wasn’t his first round 66.  The Englishman split the seat of his pants early in his round…and had to wear a pair of his playing partner’s rain pants.  But the pants didn’t fit well… so Wood got his own rain pants from his locker.  The water-repellent pants didn’t exactly breathe well in the Louisville heat…but before Wood melted in the August sun his manager showed up with a fresh pair.  Wood finished his first round with 5 birdies while wearing 4 different pairs of trousers.  After carding the 66, Wood shot 73, 70 and 74 in rounds he didn’t have to change his pants.  I’m not suggesting he should have torn his pants on purpose, but when it’s working…

 

Don’t Pass Me By— it appears as though Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 Major Championships appears safe.  Tiger Woods misses the cut by five shots after shooting consecutive 74’s.  It’s now been six years since his US Open title–and while he’s at the same age as Nicklaus was when he won his 15th major (1978 British Open) the odds of Woods enjoying the same sort of sunset Jack did (4 majors after turning 38) aren’t encouraging.  Whether it’s injuries, bad luck, off the course distractions or just getting old– some guys just simply stop winning majors after reaching their mid-30’s (Arnold Palmer was 34 when he won his last Masters and Tom Watson was 33 when he won his last British Open).  If Tiger shuts it down for the rest of the year– perhaps he comes back stronger in 2015.  Will his back issues ever go away?

 

Good Night— 2014 began with a Bubba bang– as Watson won his second green jacket in three years (and enjoyed another trip to a Waffle House).  Martin Kaymer conquered the US Open before the tournament really began…and then Rory McIlroy after ending an engagement over the phone dialed in one incredible summer.  Now every April the “can he win the Masters to complete the career grand slam” question will be asked.  After spending much of the last few years focusing on Tiger’s travails, it’s nice to think about what might be as opposed to what won’t be.

 

Octopus’ Garden— other storylines going to seed after Labor Day include the manufactured excitement surrounding the Fed Ex Cup Challenge Playoff… Tom Watson’s tough decisions regarding his Ryder Cup roster…the Rickie Fowler breakthrough question…will Phil Mickelson finally win a US Open?…Tom Watson’s last time playing the British Open (at St. Andrews–where none of his 5 wins came at)…who’s affected the most in the belly-putter’s final year?…and how many times will the Players Championship refer to itself as “golf’s fifth major”?  Sorry, Pete Best–your drums are taken.

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Say what you will about the Washington Nationals breaking out the brooms against everybody not wearing an A on their cap– they’re simply tenants in the subdivision currently run by the landlords known as the Atlanta Braves.  The Nats may very well be the team to beat for the second straight season… but the Braves are the team that’s beating them.  The pounding over the first two weekends of the 2014 season (losing 5 of 6 by the composite score of 32-16) reminds the DC faithful that they remain the bug and Atlanta remains the windshield of the NL East.

The preseason favorites were outscored (allowing 6+ runs in four of the six games), shut down (held to 1 or 2 runs in four of the six games), squeaked by (a 7-6  extra inning loss Friday) or blown out (a 10-2 thumping Sunday).  Leadoff hitter Denard Span went 1 for 15 against Braves pitching before missing two games with a concussion…and staff ace Stephen Strasburg posted a 6.23 ERA against Atlanta’s lineup that currently ranks 16th in hitting and 22nd in runs scored.  These games have been lost thanks in part to butchered base running (on multiple counts)…instant replay (Ian Desmond’s inside the park home run that became a double)…and faulty fielding (3 errors the first weekend…7 more in the second).  They’ve had one starter get to the seventh inning (Taylor Jordan) in six games…and have hit .164 with runners in scoring position (stranding 7.5 runners a game) against their nemesis to the south.  Tough to find any silver lining in these hurricane clouds.

The good news is they won’t see the Braves for over two months (June 19-22 they host the NL East leaders)…while the bad news is that this bunch will be banged up for some time.  Ryan Zimmerman (broken thumb, 4-6 weeks) joins Wilson Ramos on the disabled list while Denard Span (concussion) and Scott Hairston (sore knee) missed time this past weekend.  So let them get fat against the Marlins…and good luck when St Louis comes to town.  Because even though there are only 19 games against the Braves this year, the Nationals will be chasing Atlanta even if they pass them.

 

Capitals Close Shop– for the first time since 2007… there will be no postseason hockey in the district.  Now this isn’t like most six-year playoff runs:  the Caps never were able to get past the second round/conference semifinal round–twice losing in seven games and the other time getting swept.  Last May’s first round stumble to the NY Rangers (in one of the worst game seven efforts ever-next to the collapse against Pittsburgh in 2009) was the team’s fourth game seven loss at home during the current “run”.  Or should I say stagger.  Alex Ovechkin’s chase of 50 goals while boasting the worst plus-minus in the league was mind-boggling.  Hands-down the the most hollow DC-area stat since Bruce Smith notched the career sack record (at least the Caps didn’t sell Ovie coins).  Will GM George McPhee and/or coach Adam Oates survive the April evaluations?  This team doesn’t need new leadership as much as it needs quality defensemen.  The blue line was a sore spot the entire season…and for a team that has a preponderance of potential line combinations the fact that the goaltender du jour didn’t have consistent quality in front of him can’t be ignored.

 

Masters remains a “tradition unlike any other”.  Especially with Jim Nantz’s “overused catchphrase unlike any other”.  Was anyone else hoping for Jimmy Walker to make a run at the green jacket just to see if Nantz would be tempted to say “Dy-no-mite”?  As if he would.  Veteran Bubba Watson outdueled 20-year old Jordan Spieth (who shined for the first two rounds last June at the AT&T National) for his second green jacket in three years.  What next?  We often project the run a major champion will have (Mark O’Meara in 1998, Padraig Harrington in 2007-08).  But often they end up like Jim Furyk…still searching for their second major almost to the point that we forget their first.  Watson’s won just four PGA tournaments in his pro career.  Same as José María Olazábal when he won at Augusta National in 1994 and ’99.  Including his run at the Masters, Bubba has just four top ten finishes in Majors (Masters wins in 2012 & 14, 2nd PGA 2010, T5 US Open 2007).  Just like Sandy Lyle.  Will Spieth become the next great thing?  Sergio Garcia finished second in a major at 19–and we’re still waiting on the now 34-year old.  Unfortunately the mixed cocktail of no Tiger, Phil missing the cut and sunny skies on the east coast resulted in the lowest TV ratings in a decade.  Just like the NBA never really got ready for the post-Jordan boom…golf doesn’t have that next big magnet that brings in non-golf fans.  But on the bright side…Bubba celebrated his Masters win by eating at Waffle House and tweeted a picture with the hashtag “hashbrowns”.  Now those are traditions unlike any other.

 

Golf is more about the competing against the course than other competitors.  But the course is not fixed…it’s a living, breathing organism.  Conditions are fair but not equal.  Wind can sometimes turn on a dime. The sun at 10am is different from the sun at 6pm. Rain can extend a round into the next day…with a tight turnaround for those finishing late.  And a full day of tread can wear down a fairway or green…for better or worse. And those are only the physical conditions.

Golf exists on multiple planes–including the now, the future and the forever. While everyone in this past weekend’s field was competing towards this year…a handfull were fighting two-front wars. And for some, the results won’t be known for a while. Because although everyone was playing the same course at Merion Golf Club–there were many courses competed upon.

Justin Rose was competing against a course of possibilities. Although the thirtysomething had built up a mild resume of sporadic victories plus occasional top five major finishes, his Sunday 71 secured him a spot as a Major Champion. Despite the stigma of “one over par”…Rose has his major.  He doesn’t have to retire wondering what he could have done differently…and anything else he accomplishes is gravy.

Meanwhile, the likes of Adam Scott, Charl Schwartzel and Jim Furyk plus all the other one-time major champs were competing for gravy this past weekend.  Nobody who has a #1 hit wants to remain a one-hit wonder… just ask Dexy’s Midnight Runners.  Now instead of leaving the club-they have to welcome a new member.

Rory Mcilroy was competing against the course of rollercoaster expectations.  He’s got major wins and major meltdowns on his resume…and an underwhelming 2013 where things just don’t seem to be clicking.  And he’s still getting used to those new Nike clubs.  Remember after his US Open win at Congressional how silly the world was getting over him?  Since then it’s been one feast and more than a few famines:  his 2012 PGA Championship win was by 8 shots (just like his 2011 US Open victory) but he also posted 25th and 60th place finishes at the British Open, 25th and 40th place finishes at the Masters, a 64th place showing at the PGA and last year’s missed cut at the US Open before this year’s 41st place showing.  While nobody thinks he’ll be the next David Duval, you’d think the 2nd ranked golfer in the world would have at least more than one top 20 finish in two years.

Phil Mickelson was competing against a course of ghosts…runner-up finishes in 1999, 2002, 2004, 2006, and 2011 marking his career as much as his three Masters and one PGA Championship win.  If he had won Sunday it would have been a fitting finish to a career that saw his first serious challenge for a major under the shadow of his wife due to give birth…because that child became the 14-year-old whose 8th grade graduation speech he caught before flying overnight to make his first round tee time.  Can you imagine if he had won?  Rumors of David Stern leaving the NBA for the USGA would certainly gain traction.  If Phil had held on Sunday he would have won on his birthday as well as Father’s Day.  Instead he continues down the final fairways of his career (this is just the 3rd time in 12 majors he’s posted a top 10 finish–a far cry from his peak period of 2004-06 when he notched 8 top 10’s and 3 wins over 10 majors) with the great prize eluding him.  

Tiger Woods was competing against a course of history…while fighting off a narrowing window.  A few years ago it appeared as though reaching Jack Nicklaus’ 18 major championships would be a cinch…but now his drought has reached 5 years and counting.   And every tournament he doesn’t win gives one cause to think that 2008 wasn’t the most recent one…but the last one.  Tiger was 32 that day at Torrey Pines…and while Jack Nicklaus won 9 of his 18 after turning 32, there’s no guarantee of continued greatness.  Arnold Palmer was only 34 when he notched his last major victory at the 1964 Masters.  Tom Watson’s run to double-digit titles was derailed in the early 80’s–his last win coming at age 33 in the 1983 British Open.  I know Tiger’s in great shape and is extremely focused on his game-and you’d think his winning window would last up to around age 50-but nobody thought Palmer and Watson would stop winning when they did.  And now with a strained elbow Tiger tries to get healthy for the British Open.  Jack Nicklaus had two distinct eras of dominance (1962-67 and 1970-75) where he won 7 majors;  followed by 4 victories in the sunset of his career (1978-86).  Tiger’s enjoyed two peak eras (8 major wins from 1997-2002 and 6 from 2005-08)…and one wonders not when the next run will occur but if we’ve missed the sunset somehow.