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19th Hole
News and Opinion

Golf Blogs

Date CreatedMost Popular

Sean Donnelly
Thomas made to rue missed opportunities at Riviera
Feb 19, 2019 3:00 AM
 
When Justin Thomas tapped-in for par on Riviera’s challenging par-4 18th-hole to sign for a 6-under third-round 65 on Sunday morning, the stage seemed set for him to ease to a first victory of the season. Amidst the driving rain, gale-force winds, lengthy delays and frustrating bouts of slow-play, the 25-year-old retained a remarkable composure and competitive focus. Four shots clear of the world No.100, J.B. Holmes with 18-holes to play, there was little reason to doubt his capacity to close-out a 10th PGA Tour victory and join Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth as the youngest double-digit PGA Tour winner in six decades. A birdie-four on the opening-hole of the final-round served only to reinforce this perspective as he drew temporarily five-shots clear of Holmes, a player, it is worth restating, who had not won a PGA Tour event in over three-years. The tournament only looked to be going in one direction. Then came a missed 11-footer for par on the second hole, and another from just inside eight feet on the fourth, and another empty 11-footer on the fifth. Justin Thomas was *this* close to earning his 10th PGA Tour title on Sunday at the Genesis Open.Until his putter abandoned him: https://t.co/0OlrdN5cyf pic.twitter.com/WbpER5GgpS— Golf Digest (@GolfDigest) February 18, 2019 Suddenly, Thomas was 2-over through five-holes and looked shaky. By the time the world No.4 made his fourth bogey of the day, on the drivable par-4 10th, where he yanked his tee shot well left of the green before a three-putt that included missing a five-footer, his four-stroke lead at the start of the round had evaporated. A four-putt double-bogey on the par-4 13th followed by a three-putt bogey on the par-3 14th sealed his fate; Thomas signed, ultimately, for a 4-over final-round 75, rendering Holmes’ indifferent 1-under 71 (a score composed of just three bogeys and six consecutive pars into the clubhouse) good enough to take the title by a stroke. To put that final-round into some kind of context, Thomas went 66-65-65 through the opening 54-holes to tie Riviera’s Saturday evening scoring record and was on track to set a new, record-low winning total. Furthermore, he matched or out-scored Holmes on virtually every major performance indicator on the back-nine on Sunday, even as his putting-performance fragmented. It is striking, for instance, that Holmes hit seven of nine greens in regulation on the final nine holes while Thomas hit eight. Holmes' average proximity to the hole was 1 foot closer than Thomas' on the back, but his score was two strokes better. Thomas threw the tournament away. "J.B. won. He played great," Thomas said. "But it's always a bummer to hand him a tournament. I feel like I should have won that thing. Hit some great shots the last four holes. Really, the last five holes. I hit a great shot on 14, too. Just hit a putt too hard and then misread one. But it is what it is and just got to find a way to learn from it." It is tempting to put Thomas’ capitulation on Sunday down to nerves, to conclude that he is shaky under pressure and to move on. However, such a verdict is unconvincing when one accounts for the fact that he had successfully closed six of eight previous 54-hole leads on the PGA Tour and finished T21, T4, 3rd in final round scoring average in the last three seasons. Put simply, Sunday afternoon was a crazy anomaly, not only in the context of Thomas’ week, but in the broader picture of his overall career, and it is tenuous to depict his collapse as anything more than an aberration. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
J.B. Holmes rallies past Justin Thomas to win marathon day at Genesis Open
Feb 18, 2019 1:26 PM
 
J.B. Holmes was not much talked about in the lead-up to the Genesis Open at Riviera Country Club. Fan and media attention was principally focused on world No.3, Dustin Johnson’s quest to claim a second title in three starts, Tiger Woods’ pursuit of a first ever career victory at Riviera and Rory McIlroy’s effort to win his first title since switching full-time over to the PGA Tour at the beginning of the year. In many respects this is unsurprising. Holmes arrived in Californian off the back of an MC-T26-MC run through his first three starts of the season at the Farmers Insurance Open, Waste Management Open and AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, and while he impressed with top-three finishes at the FedEx St Jude Classic and Travelers Championship last summer, he had not won in over three seasons since claiming his fourth PGA Tour accolade at the 2015 Shell Houston Open. The extent of Holmes’ decline from the elite-level of the professional game was set in stark relief when one accounts for the fact that he travelled to Riviera positioned No.100 in the Official World Golf Rankings. Put simply, the Kentucky native had long since ceased to be a going concern at the highest echelons of the PGA Tour hierarchy. But golf, as practitioners of all levels will be only too keenly aware, is a most capricious sport, and 38-holes into a badly rain-delayed tournament in California, Holmes found himself in serious contention for the title. The 36-year-old captured international headlines courtesy of an 8-under opening-round 63 (featuring an ace on the par-3 sixth-hole), and while his scoring contracted in poor weather conditions on the Friday, he still managed to grind out a 2-under 69 to begin a marathon, 34-hole final day within four-shots of world No.4, Justin Thomas. J.B. Holmes earned his first PGA Tour victory in four years at the Genesis Open, taking home a $1.332 million paycheck along with it. How much money each player in the field made: https://t.co/yELo63o7Oq pic.twitter.com/Io4NOrb4kc — Golf Digest (@GolfDigest) February 18, 2019 Holmes’ hopes of an upset appeared slim after Thomas carded five-birdies and an eagle en route to a third-round 65 during the morning session; however, the veteran managed to keep within touching distance of the youngster with a 3-under third-round total of 68, and Thomas would ultimately play a key role in Holmes’ eventual victory. He took 19 putts in a wild back nine that featured three two-shot swings because of putting. Thomas, who closed with a 75, three-putted from long range on the 10th as Holmes made birdie for his first lead of the week. Holmes returned the favor on the next hole when he turned birdie into a shocker of a bogey, three-putting from 3 feet. And then it was back to Thomas, and what turned out to be the decisive moment. Holmes missed the 13th green to the right and chipped to 12 feet. Thomas was some 65 feet away and lagged his putt to 8 feet. Holmes made the par putt , and not only did Thomas miss his putt for par, he lipped out the next one for a double bogey. That took Thomas from one ahead to one behind, and he never caught up. Holmes ultimately signed for a 1-under final-round total of 70 and a single stroke victory. In addition to climbing back inside of the world’s top-50 for the first time in well over a year, Holmes has earned an invite to The Masters in April and is now strongly positioned to make an impact in the FedEx Cup. Not a bad week’s work for the veteran. Thomas will rue this as an opportunity squandered. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Matt Kuchar apologizes to caddie, pays him full $50,000
Feb 17, 2019 7:24 AM
 
Who knows what persuaded him to do it in the end? The scathing newspaper editorials?; the social media backlash?; the animus of colleagues in the PGA Tour dressing-room?; the reasoned words of full-time, professional caddies?; his conscience? Whatever it was, Matt Kuchar has capitulated in the face of mounting public pressure following his decision to pay caddie, David Giral Ortiz just $5,000 out of the $1.296 million he received for winning the Mayakoba Classic in Mexico last November. In addition to issuing a full public apology to Ortiz, Kuchar has agreed to pay the journeyman caddie the $50,000 bonus he requested following the triumph in Mexico. Kuchar was a last-minute call-up to the Mayakoba event, a circumstance that rendered his full-time caddie, John Wood was unable to make the trip; he consequently hired a local caddie, Ortiz, 40, who regularly works at the resort and makes up to $200 a day. Matt Kuchar's regular caddie, John Wood, shared his thoughts on Friday.'To crucify for one mistake feels wrong.'https://t.co/EbwrI9VZHO pic.twitter.com/WDBIIPouf3— Golf Channel (@GolfChannel) February 17, 2019 Kuchar and Ortiz struck a deal in which the caddie would be paid $1,000 if the golfer missed the cut, $2,000 for making the cut, $3,000 for a top-20 finish and $4,000 for a top-10. However, there was no provision for a victory – it is worth noting that Kuchar was winless in four seasons om the PGA Tour – and Kuchar subsequently determined it appropriate to pay Ortiz $5,000 in cash. Caddie deals on the PGA Tour vary greatly, but there is often an extra amount thrown in for wins and top-10 finishes, with a win bonus usually a fee in the region of 10% of the prize-cheque. Ortiz’s $5,000 payment represented less than 1% of Kuchar’s total payment for winning the tournament; unsurprisingly, news of this meagre contribution provoked a hostile backlash and Kuchar has now yielded to demands that he pay Ortiz a greater share of the winner’s cheque. "This week, I made comments that were out of touch and insensitive, making a bad situation worse," Kuchar said in a statement after he was reportedly heckled in the first round of the rain-delayed Genesis Open on Friday. "They made it seem like I was marginalising David Ortiz and his financial situation, which was not my intention. I read them again and cringed. "That is not who I am and not what I want to represent. In this situation, I have not lived up to those values or to the expectations I've set for myself. "I let myself, my family, my partners and those close to me down, but I also let David down. "I plan to call David, something that is long overdue, to apologise for the situation he has been put in, and I have made sure he has received the full total that he has requested." Kuchar also pledged a donation to the Mayakoba Classic charities and expressed remorse for how the situation affected the tournament and those around him after the story escalated in recent days due to his comments that suggested what he had paid Ortiz was "fair." Ultimately, Kuchar has misread the public mood badly on this issue and it is difficult not to feel as though this incident has left a permanent stain on his reputation. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Justin Thomas, Adam Scott share lead at rain-delayed Genesis Open
Feb 16, 2019 12:06 PM
 
For the second time in as many weeks the elements have conspired to wreak havoc on the PGA Tour. Just seven days after torrential rain and gale-force winds forced a Monday finish at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am at Monterrey Peninsula, heavy rains have limited the PGA Tour elite to just 30-holes through the opening two days of golf at the Genesis Open at Riviera Golf Club at Pacific Palisades. Based on the weekend forecast, it would take a brave man to back against a second consecutive Monday finish. Nevertheless, the adverse weather conditions have not had a particularly deleterious impact of the quality of the golf being produced at Riviera; indeed, world No.4, Justin Thomas had just carded six birdies through a seven-hole stretch in order to tie former Masters champion, Adam Scott atop the leaderboard at 11-under when play was halted on Friday evening. Rory McIlroy, meantime, had just moved three-under through 12-holes to draw to within four strokes of the lead. Unsurprisingly, none of these in-form, elite-level athletes were particularly keen to vacate the course as dusk was setting over Riviera. "It's hard playing 30 holes, but it's really hard when it's raining and it's soft," Thomas said after making 14 birdies on the back of a long day. This shot from JT at the @genesisopen is every groundskeeper's worst nightmare pic.twitter.com/TeintXSJ5e— GOLF.com (@GOLF_com) February 16, 2019 "My legs are tired, so I just need to go home and rest and get some food and try to go to sleep early as I can." Thomas, who opened with a 5-under 66 in the morning, was 5 under for his second round through 12 holes. He had an eight-hole stretch when he didn't make a par (six birdies, two bogeys), ending with a two-putt par on No. 3. Scott, playing in the group behind Thomas, was comparably impressive amidst the unpredictable climatic conditions. Having started his first round on Friday, the former world No.1 also reached five under for his second round, with five birdies spoiled by a bogey on the par-five 17th. Endearingly, Scott told the PGA Tour website that a fresh pair of socks helped him between rounds. "You always feel better with fresh feet," Scott grinned while holding up the wet pair from earlier in the day at his locker. "It's a good veteran move, and it helped me carry over the momentum from the morning.” J.B. Holmes sits two-strokes off the halfway lead, despite acing the par-three sixth-hole en route to signing for a field-leading 8-under opening-round 63; he sits 1-under through 16 holes of his second round, having carded three birdies and two bogeys. McIlroy, meantime, improved on an opening 72 by hitting four birdies through 12 holes in his second round to move to three under. Tiger Woods is on one under after an opening round of 70 and is level par through 12 holes for his second round, having sunk a 44-foot putt for eagle on the par-five first. Play is set to resume at 07:00 local time (15:00 GMT) on Saturday. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Matt Kuchar defends paying caddie $5K: 'Can't make everybody happy'
Feb 15, 2019 12:42 PM
 
There is a great deal to admire about Matt Kuchar as a professional golfer; he is accurate off the tee, consistent with his irons and possesses one of the best approach games on the PGA Tour. But as much as the discerning golf watcher might admire Kuchar’s technical abilities, he has never exactly been what one might describe as ‘box office’. Softly spoken, modest and endlessly upbeat, Kuchar has long been regarded among the most popular players in the PGA Tour and Ryder Cup dressing rooms; however, these qualities also render him and uncontroversial and generally deeply uninteresting media subject. Consequently, the lay sports fan can rest assured that whenever Kuchar’s name does appear in media headlines for reasons other than having won a golf tournament, something unusual has happened. Such has been the case precisely since the Florida-native ended a four-season PGA Tour trophy drought by claiming the Mayakoba Golf Classic in Mexico last November. Of course, the initial wave of press response to this achievement was standard fare and focused principally on the scale of Kuchar’s achievement in ending such a lengthy barren-spell. Some more optimistic pundits even prophesied that the veteran might push back towards the world’s top-10 and perhaps claim a long overdue maiden major championship triumph. Matt Kuchar's response to his caddie controversy isn't helping him much.A breakdown of his comments: https://t.co/lwzLjvkYIA pic.twitter.com/ElmcNQETzM— Golf Digest (@GolfDigest) February 15, 2019 Such assertions appeared to have been invested with some validity when Kuchar returned to the headlines again after claiming a second title in four starts at the Sony Open in Hawaii in January. But since triumphing at Waialae Country Club, the 40-year-old has been attracting press attention for all the wrong reasons; for late last month reports began to emerge on social media that Kuchar had only paid caddie, David Giral Ortiz $5,000 out of the $1.296 million he received for winning the Mayakoba Classic last November. The amount has been criticized by many players and pundits as being too small; caddie deals on the PGA Tour vary greatly, but there is often an extra amount thrown in for top-10 finishes and typically a 10 percent bonus for a win. Ortiz’s $5,000 payment represents less than 1% of Kuchar’s total payment for winning the tournament. Kuchar’s defenders, of course, highlight that roughly half of his $1.3 million would immediately be lost to the taxman; furthermore, Ortiz is not Kuchar’s regular caddie and consequently does not have any formal 10% winner’s agreement with the player. Indeed, Ortiz lives locally in Mayakoba and did not incur any travel costs; it has also been argued that because Ortiz’s financial and professional fortunes are not tied to Kuchar’s in the manner of a full-time caddie he deserves to be paid less because his work entails less risk. Irrespective of one’s view on these issues, Kuchar has made it plain that he is not losing any sleep over the situation. Speaking to GolfChannel.com ahead of this week’s Genesis Open at Riviera, he avowed a firm belief that Ortiz was paid fairly. "It's done. Listen, I feel like I was fair and good. You can't make everybody happy. You're not going to buy people's ability to be OK with you, and this seems to be a social media issue more than anything. I think it shouldn't be, knowing that there was a complete, agreed-upon deal that not only did I meet but exceeded. "So, I certainly don't lose sleep over this. This is something that I'm quite happy with, and I was really happy for him to have a great week and make a good sum of money. Making $5,000 is a great week. "I kind of feel like unfortunately some other people have got it in his head that he's deserving something different than what we agreed upon. And it's just too bad that it's turned into a story, because it doesn't need to be. We had a great week." Unfortunately for Kuchar, the story looks set to run and run. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Garcia seeking to atone for Saudi meltdown at Riviera
Feb 14, 2019 6:21 AM
 
There come moments in the careers of many elite sportsmen when the red-mist descends and composure flies out the window. One thinks, for example, of John McEnroe’s infamous “you cannot be serious!” rant at the 1981 Wimbledon tennis championships, of the Manchester United captain, of Erick Cantona kung-fu kicking an opposition supporter after being sent off during a Premier League match at Crystal Palace in 1995, or of Mike Tyson biting Evander Holyfield's ear during a 1997 WBO World Heavyweight title bout. Golf, of course, is no exception to this general trend and, not for the first time in his career, Sergio Garcia succumbed to the red mist on the occasion of his most recent start at the inaugural Saudi International a fortnight ago. The 39-year-old left a divot on the sixth green during the third round and scraped his frustration on four other greens at the newly-built Royal Greens Country Club. Players behind complained to referees about the state of the putting surfaces and he consequently became the first player on the European Tour to be disqualified under Rule 1.2a, which reads "players are expected to play in the spirit of the game by acting with integrity, showing consideration to others and taking good care of the course". Q: At what event will Sergio Garcia get the most brutal reception this year?@AlanShipnuck: "The fans at the Players can be brutal, and that’s coming fast, while the greens in Saudi Arabia are still healing."#AskAlan Mailbag: https://t.co/abx5n7u3Zg pic.twitter.com/SyvaidSMtu— GOLF.com (@GOLF_com) February 13, 2019 Unsurprisingly, Garcia was keen to set the record straight at his pre-tournament press-conference at the Genesis Open at Riviera on Wednesday, stressing that an unspecified private issue had contributed to the outburst. “I received some very emotional, personal news earlier that week that didn’t help,” Garcia told the Golf Channel. “It was in the back of my mind. As I became frustrated on the course everything erupted. “I know I lost it. I feel terrible about it. I’ve been thinking about it for the last week, every day. I’m an emotional player. If I channel it the right way, it’s amazing. If I channel it the wrong way, it’s too extreme. My goal is make sure the bad gets better and the good stays.” Strikingly, the Spaniard even went so far as to concede that world No.2, Brooks Koepka was justified in labelling his behaviour “childish”. “I’m going to tell him I agree,” Garcia said, anticipating an encounter with Koepka at next week’s World Golf Championship in Mexico City. “But I don’t agree with the age. He got my age wrong. I’m 39, not 40. But when I see him, I’ll tell him I’m sorry.” There can be no doubt that this incident will haunt Garcia; indeed, there are already reports that the outburst has exerted a profound deleterious impact on his professional standing in the European Tour dressing room, and many fans perceive that he was insufficiently sanctioned by the relevant disciplinary bodies. Ultimately, the most effective means through which the Spaniard can shift focus away from his temperament and back to his golf is to get back winning again, and it is significant that his meltdown in Saudi Arabia came amidst an impressive run of form – reading 7-W-2-9-6-7-3 – that dates back as far as the Portugal Masters last September. Striking, too, is the fact that Garcia has finished inside the top-six at Riviera on three previous occasions. A victory on Sunday would be the most effective means through which Garcia could alter the current media narrative and provide himself with a platform on which to build towards the Masters in April. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
2019 Genesis Open betting tips: Back Garcia at 50/1
Feb 13, 2019 1:10 PM
 
The PGA Tour heads to Riviera Country Club, Pacific Palisades, California for the Genesis Open this week with five of the world’s top-seven vying for the title. Here follows our top-three bets for the week. Outright Winner: Sergio Garcia (50/1) Dustin Johnson trades as an 8/1 favourite to win this one and it is frankly difficult to contest such pricing. The 34-year-old claimed his first title of the season by two shots away from Haotong Li at the Saudi International a fortnight ago and he possesses an exceptional record at Riviera, a course that places a heavy premium on distance off the tee. Indeed, Johnson won the Genesis Open by five shots away from Scott Brown two-years ago and has twice finished as a runner-up on the Pacific Palisades track, including when beaten in a play-off by James Hahn. Strikingly, he possesses a scoring average of 69.28 through 40 rounds at Riviera. It cannot be overlooked, however, that the world No.3 tanked as a 5/1 favourite at Pebble Beach last week (finishing T45), which is another venue he loves, and generally looked travel-weary. Indeed, Johnson has already played in Hawaii, Dubai, Saudi Arabia and California this year. 8/1 is too short a price when set against the quality of the field. Much the same can be said be about three-time Riviera champion, Bubba Watson (2014, 2016, 2018). Clearly, the 40-year-old loves the course and he impressed in tying for fourth in Phoenix two-weeks ago; however, he is winless since claiming the Travelers Championship last June and has never successfully defended a title. With Bryson DeChambeau (16/1) still learning these ropes, Jon Rahm (16/1) making his debut at a course which undoubtedly favours experience, and Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas (both 14/1) struggling for form, it is difficult to identify an attractive alternative. Apparently, this footage is from the day before Sergio Garcia damaged 5 greens... Credit - @GOLF_com pic.twitter.com/qLejFERZ3D— Rock Bottom Golf (@rockbottomgolf) February 4, 2019 At 50/1, however, Sergio Garcia comes into this tournament massively under the radar. The Spaniard did little to endear himself to the golfing public in Saudi Arabia two weeks ago; however, his form record read 7-1-2-9-6-7-3 prior to the DQ and he has finished inside the top-six at Riviera on three previous occasions. Back the Spaniard as an outsider. Top-10: Phil Mickelson (25/1) Its pretty easy to justify investing in Phil as an each-way bet this week. Lefty won the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro Am comfortably on Monday, two weeks after finishing second at the Desert Classic, and he has great form at Riviera with two victories and two runners-up finishes. Mickelson has also managed to win both a US Masters and an Open Championship the week after winning a regular Tour event so he has form when it comes to claiming consecutive triumphs. Outsider: Kevin Na (80/1) In addition to having claimed his second PGA Tour title at the Greenbrier Classic last July, Na finished second at Riviera last year and 4th the year before that. He represents exceptional value at 80/1. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Casey made to rue missed opportunities at Pebble Beach
Feb 12, 2019 3:46 AM
 
Paul Casey’s single stroke victory away from a resurgent Tiger Woods and the reigning Masters champion, Patrick Reed at the Valspar Championship at Copperhead Golf Course in Innisbrook last March felt transformative. Two principal factors fed into this sense of optimism. First, there was the quality of the golf. Casey scarcely put a foot wrong through 72-holes at Innisbrook; he ranked at the summit of the Strokes Gained statistics in all of the major performance indicators and played all four tournament rounds under par for the first time in five full seasons on the PGA Tour. Put simply, Casey appeared to be on the precipice of recapturing the performance levels that propelled him to No.3 in the Official World Golf Rankings back in 2009. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, there was the psychological aspect to the victory. Casey had been winless on the PGA Tour since claiming his maiden title on US soil at the Houston Open in 2009, and although he demonstrated impressive consistency in amassing five top-3 finishes through the previous three seasons on the PGA Tour, he also exhibited a worrying inability to convert strong 54-hole positions into tournament victories. Not much more to say! pic.twitter.com/XGY4gxJOzl — Phil Mickelson (@PhilMickelson) February 11, 2019 The calm, measured and controlled manner in which he signed for a 6-under closing-round 65 to take the title under the full-glare of the global media with Tiger Woods breathing down his neck consequently felt enormously significant. It seemed reasonable to ponder whether, at 41, Casey was about to begin re-establishing himself at the summit of the world game and perhaps even claim that elusive major championship title? Of course, things have not quite worked out the way. Indeed, Casey only managed one further top-three finish in 17 starts after winning at Innisbrook Golf Resort last term; he failed to do better than T15 at major championship level, and finished the year ranked back outside of the world’s top-20 for the first time since 2015. Put simply, Casey had failed emphatically to capitalise fully on the sense of momentum and competitive possibility generated by his triumph at Innisbrook, and it was difficult not to reflect mournfully on the optimism that surrounded the Englishman this time a year ago as he ceded six-strokes to Phil Mickelson through the course of a rain-delayed final round at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am last week. Casey had performed exceptionally in amassing a three-stroke 54-hole lead at Pebble Beach, an achievement rendered all the more significant by the fact that the PGA Tour will return Monterrey Peninsula for the 119th staging of the US Open in June. As it turned-out, however, Casey was once more unable to parley a strong Saturday evening position into a PGA Tour title; damningly, he could only muster a 1-under final-round 71 as Mickelson strode to a three-shot triumph. Pebble Beach was an opportunity lost for Casey; it is imperative he moves on swiftly from that disappointment. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Mickelson lays down US Open marker with fifth Pebble Beach win
Feb 11, 2019 1:16 PM
 
The surest sign of technical greatness in any sphere is an ability to make a difficult task look easy; Phil Mickelson did exactly that at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am this afternoon, parring the par-3 17th before birdying the famous par-5 18th to close-out a rain-delayed three-stroke victory away from Paul Casey. Mickelson had a three-shot lead over Casey with two holes to play when it became too dark to finish on Sunday night owing to delays from rain and a hail storm. At the time, of course, Mickelson insisted his sight was sufficient to play on; having overturned a three-stroke 54-hole deficit from Casey, he was understandably keen to maintain his low-scoring momentum and ram-home his lead into the clubhouse. Casey understandably dissented from Lefty’s judgement, calmly informing the match referee that he could not perceive his ball well enough to complete the round. The light was undoubtedly a factor in Casey’s decision; however, the Englishman also had a great deal to gain from disrupting Mickelson’s momentum and obliging the 48-year-old to stew on his lead overnight. What a performance by Phil! His longevity is mind-blowing: three decades at the forefront of his sport and still going strong. My day with him at home in Rancho Santa Fe offered some insight on what keeps him going: https://t.co/JJjUFQVFsz — Alan Shipnuck (@AlanShipnuck) February 11, 2019 As Casey commented to the BBC after returning to the clubhouse on Sunday evening: “There’s still a glimmer [of hope]…I need to do something special.” As it turned out, however, Mickelson made the whole thing look rather easy. He drilled a 7-iron into 8 feet on the par-3 17th and made par, and then played conservatively up the par-5 18th and finished with a 6-foot birdie to seal his 44th PGA Tour title and his fifth victory at Pebble Beach. In addition to not missing a single fairway across 72-holes for the first time in 20-years, Mickelson matched the low score of the final round while playing in the last group, turning a three-shot deficit into a three-shot victory. He finished at 19-under 268 and joined Tiger Woods as the only players to surpass $90 million in earnings. Following on from a runner-up finish at the Desert Classic on the occasion of his first start of 2019, it is difficult not to feel excited by the emphatic nature of Mickelson’s victory at Pebble Beach and by the strength of his start to the season more generally. This is especially the case when one accounts for the fact that the PGA Tour will return Monterrey Peninsula for the 119th playing of the US Open in June, the one major that Mickelson has failed to claim through 27 decorated years at the highest level of the professional game. Indeed, Lefty has finished as a runner-up at America’s oldest major an agonising six times in his career; a victory at Pebble Beach in June would be a fitting way to end to one of the greatest careers in the history of golf. The cool, calm and collected manner in which he closed-out his three-shot lead away from Casey this afternoon suggests he is well placed to contend for that title. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Casey seizes 54-hole advantage at Pebble Beach
Feb 10, 2019 1:25 PM
Tags: Paul Casey   Pebble Beach   Phil Mickelson   News   pga tour  
 
Paul Casey was not much talked about in the lead-up to this week’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am at Monterrey Peninsula; indeed, media attention focused principally on Dustin Johnson’s quest for back-to-back victories, Jordan Spieth’s ongoing search for a return to form and Phil Mickelson’s attempt to claim a fifth title on the Californian coast. In many respects this is unsurprising. For although Casey impressed in claiming his 18th professional title by a stroke away from Patrick Reed and Tiger Woods at the Valspar Championship last March, that marked the occasion of the Englishman’s first PGA Tour triumph in nine seasons and he seldom threatened to win again during the second-half of the 2018 campaign. Indeed, Casey only managed one further top-three finish in 17 starts after winning at Innisbrook Golf Resort last term and finished the year ranked back outside of the world’s top-20. Put simply, he did not begin the 2019 campaign with the trappings of a player ready to catch-fire. In hindsight, however, we perhaps should have envisaged Casey contending this week. A double bogey for Jordan Spieth at Pebble Beach's 18th hole.He finishes Round 3 eight shots back of the lead. pic.twitter.com/imzYRvkIeS— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) February 9, 2019 Following an indifferent T16-MC run through the Tournament of Champions and Sony Open in Hawaii, the 41-year-old carded four rounds in the 60s en route to a runners-up finish to Jazz Janewattananond at the Singapore Open a fortnight ago, and arrived in Californian refreshed after having skipped last week’s controversial Saudi Open. Furthermore, Monterrey Peninsula Golf Resort has always complimented Casey’s physical and technical traits. A tight, relative short and angular links set-up, Pebble Beach, Monterrey Peninsula and Spyglass place a far higher premium on a player’s ball-striking, shot-selection and course-management abilities than they do on club-head acceleration and driving distance. The Englishman’s chances were further enhanced by the high winds and driving rain forecast to batter the Californian coastline this week; though never a quintessential links specialist, Casey’s golfing formation in Cheltenham on the edge of the Cotswolds would have equipped him well to deal with adverse weather conditions. The former world No.2 started solidly on Thursday, birdying the par-3 17th and par-5 18th holes on Pebble Beach for a 3-under 69; he signed for a bogey-free 7-under 64 at Monterrey Peninsula on Friday and dropped six birdies en route to a 5-under 67 at Spyglass on Saturday. "There are two factors [contributing to my success]," Casey said. "One is the weather. If you have great weather, this is one of the best places on the planet. And two, if you have the right partner, it can be wonderful. I can at least guarantee one of those elements." He is playing with Don Colleran, the chief sales officer at FedEx. Casey will consequently tee-off for the final-round with a three-stroke lead away from Phil Mickelson in outright second at 15-under-par; a victory would lay down a significant marker for major championship season with the US Open slated to return to Pebble Beach in June. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Spieth can ignite season with strong weekend at Pebble Beach
Feb 9, 2019 7:22 AM
 
It is perishingly rare that the opening two holes of a golfer’s playing session at a mid-ranking PGA Tour event in early February feel crucial to the evolution of an entire season; however, this seems to be the case precisely as Jordan Spieth prepares to resume playing at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am at Monterrey Peninsula on Saturday. Spieth was the only player among the five co-leaders who failed to finish the second round before play was suspended Friday afternoon due to blustery, wet conditions on the Californian coast. The 2017 champ is one of 44 golfers facing an extended day Saturday as the tournament seeks to get its schedule back on track; he will need to complete his final two-holes on Spyglass before transitioning to Pebble Beach’s main course for his third-round. “I got off to a really nice start, which helped, knowing that the conditions were blowing in, trying to take advantage of the front nine”, said Spieth, who is a bogey-free 5 under on his suspended second round. “And then once they started to come in, it was just try and hold on for dear life.” Jordan Spieth still has two holes to play in Round two, but it will have to wait until tomorrow.He's tied for the lead at Pebble Beach. https://t.co/AyEcKsPv8k pic.twitter.com/brBJrumFNP— Golf Digest (@GolfDigest) 8 February 2019 “I’ve got a shot from the fairway on eight, and then the ninth hole trying to make two pars there – and then go on to Pebble and kind of see what the day gives you. I’m not sure what the forecast is.” Phil Mickelson, Paul Casey, Lucas Glover and Scott Langley each finished their 36 holes at 10 under, with Spieth at the same mark after 34 holes. Jason Day, who is solo sixth at 9 under, has three holes remaining on his round. Scott Piercy, solo seventh, at 8 under, also has three holes left. Every other player in the top 14 of the leaderboard is finished. It is difficult not to feel as though Saturday has the potential to be decisive in the overall context of Spieth’s season; indeed, his final two-holes on Spyglass could really set the tone for much of what is to come. The 25-year-old underperformed badly throughout the course of a deeply underwhelming 2018 campaign. In addition to having failed to win a single PGA Tour title for the first time since 2014, he finished the year with his lowest earnings in six full seasons as a pro and failed to qualify for the Fed-Ex Cup-ending Tour Championship at East Lake in September Indeed, Spieth arrived at Pebble Beach this week ranked outside of the world’s top-20 for the first time in five-years, having begun the 2018/19 PGA Tour campaign with a deeply indifferent MC-MC-T35 run through the Mayakoba Classic, the Sony Open and the Farmers Insurance Open. To put things mildly, the former world No.1 is desperately in need of an uptick in form; a victory at Pebble this weekend has the potential to reorient radically the present trajectory of Spieth’s career and provide him with a real sense of confidence looking towards the US Open which returns to Monterrey Peninsula in June. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Mickelson establishes US Open marker early at Pebble Beach
Feb 8, 2019 1:29 PM
 
There comes a point in the career of every elite-level professional athlete when they are obliged to face-up to the inevitability of their competitive mortality. One thinks, for example, of the senior tennis player who consciously takes a few miles-per-hour off their service to better preserve some fraying shoulder tendons, or the veteran soccer player who consents to starting every second game on the bench to enhance their professional longevity. Indeed, physical decline is an inevitability that no athlete can avoid confronting forever and, at 48, it seems Phil Mickelson – the happiest, go-luckiest guy in all of golf – is finally beginning to face-up to the reality that his time competing at the highest echelons of the PGA Tour is coming to an end. The five-time major winner’s disastrous performance at the Ryder Cup in Paris last autumn seems to have been crucial in catalysing this realisation. Lefty returned to the US chastened and avowed swiftly that he would not spend any more time playing courses that mitigate his technical strengths or place excessive physical demands on his body. “I’m going to have to start limiting the number of tournaments that I play so that I can play those at a higher level, because I’m getting a little bit more mental fatigue and not able to focus and see the shot as clearly as I’d like for so many weeks in a row.” “I’ve learned from this. At 48, it’s not a smart thing to do. I won’t do it anymore. I won’t do it again, playing this much golf. I’ll pace myself much more.” New solo leader @ATTProAm.@PhilMickelson with the wedge #QuickHits pic.twitter.com/fJFu2sLrGh— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) February 8, 2019 Mickelson gave another signal that he is adapting his approach to the sport to better preserve his body last month when he pulled out of his hometown event, the Famers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, for the first-time in 29-years. The fact that the veteran tied for second at the Desert Classic in La Quinta on the occasion of his first start of 2019 suggests this more restrained approach to scheduling is already beginning to yield a competitive benefit. Another consequence of Mickelson reconciling with his golfing mortality, however, will be an increased awareness of the fact that he is running out of time to complete his career slam by claiming a US Open title – a tournament in which he has finished as runner-up on an six agonising occasions. In this context it is significant that Lefty carded seven birdies and didn't miss a single fairway en route to signing for a 6-under opening-round 65 at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am on Thursday in order to draw to within a shot of Brian Gay and Scott Langley’s overnight lead. Pebble Beach, of course, will host the US Open in June and given it is a venue on which Mickelson has won four-times in his career, it seems clear that he has targeted this event in preparation for one of his final meaningful attempts at sealing a career slam. It would be a fitting way to end one of the most extraordinary careers in PGA Tour history. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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