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Mickelson lips out a chance at 59

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Phil Mickelson tried to walk it home and he nearly did.

“I couldn’t envision which side of the hole it could possibly miss on, and it ended up somehow just dying off at the end, catching the lip,” Mickelson said.

Jim “Bones” Mackay, Mickelson’s caddy, took a hop, a side-step and then collapsed to his knees as the putt for 59 lipped out.

“He could not have hit a better putt,” Mackay said.

Although TPC Scottsdale might not be considered hallowed golfing ground, the 11 birdies that Mickelson had made caught the attention of some tortured golfing soul, who decreed that enough was enough, that Mickelson would not enter the pantheon of those who break 60. For all of us, 11 birdies in a round would be a highlight that might surpass the birth of a child or an acceptance to an Ivy League school. For a professional golfer like Mickelson, it was an opportunity to make 12, and he certainly tried.

The round began on the back side of the course known for its rocking fans. After approach shots inside 10 feet led to birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 (his first two holes of the day), Mickelson nearly aced No. 12, stuffing an iron to two feet for a third-consecutive birdie. A wayward drive to the native area in the No. 13 fairway nearly cost Mickelson a shot, as he was forced to pitch out some 90 yards, leaving over 160 in. Undaunted, he stuffed yet another approach to two feet, for a fourth-consecutive strike against par. After a terrific lag putt from more than 50 feet on his fifth hole, Mickelson had another chance at a stroke-save, but missed an eight-foot birdie try on No. 15.

Coming to the stadium setting on the famous par-3 16th, Mickelson’s efforts to move the needle were rewarded as he slipped an approach 17 feet from the hole and then nailed the putt to reach five-under. Two more birdies on Nos. 17 and 18 (from four and 15 feet, respectively) brought the southpaw to seven-under and the crowd to its feet.

The train found little reason to slow its pace as the back nine commenced. Lefty buried a 22-footer on No. 1 (his 10th hole) and a 13-foot effort on No. 4. Sandwiched between were an up-and-down par on No. 2 and a tap-in from a foot and a half on No. 3. Looking back at the round, the recovery for par on the second hole kept the momentum going. After a hot approach that flew long and left of the green, Mickelson pitched to 11 feet with his third, but coaxed the par putt home.

Standing on No. 5 tee, Mickelson had to know that two more birdies would bring him to 12-under par, a 59 against TPC-Scottsdale’s par of 71. The way his game had revealed itself to that point, who among the crowd would have bet against him? On Wednesday, Phil Mickelson shared his affinity for the course with reporters:

“The thing I love about TPC Scottsdale is its risk-reward,” Mickelson told reporters. “You have so many opportunities to go for it, try to make birdies or eagles, but with great penalty if you don’t pull the shot off because there’s so much water, especially the last six, seven holes of the golf course.”

The risk-reward design of the course nearly derailed his march against history. An average approach from 160 yards led to a 43-foot, two-putt for par on No. 5, followed by a near-mucking of No. 6. After his new Callaway driver put him in the left rough, Mickelson once again caught a flyer and sailed the green, leaving a pitch-back of some 10 yards. Lefty snuggled the ball inside five feet and drained a twitchy little nod to keep hope alive.

The swashbuckler strode to No. 7’s tee and stuck an iron inside seven feet, as if to say “Yes, I can birdie all the par 3s.” And he did, knocking the approach putt in for the fourth two on his scorecard.

“Probably the best shot of the day because it’s a tucked little pin over that bunker and I hit a 6-iron to four or five feet,” Mickelson said. “It was really a good shot from 196 yards.”

Moving to No. 8, his penultimate, the game was truly on. In order to gain access to a small and heralded corps, Mickelson would need to find a way to birdie one of two par 4 holes that exceeded 460 yards in length. A two-putt par from 18 feet set the stage for the last-hole ebb and flow that tied the course record and staked Mickelson to an early four-stroke lead.

Mickelson hinted that he was close to the game he wanted each of the last two weeks. Might Tiger Woods’ victory at Torrey Pines, Mickelson’s San Diego home turf, have inspired Lefty to ratchet his game up? Check around Sunday night for the answer.

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Ronald Montesano writes for GolfWRX.com from western New York. He dabbles in coaching golf and teaching Spanish, in addition to scribbling columns on all aspects of golf, from apparel to architecture, from equipment to travel. Follow Ronald on Twitter at @buffalogolfer.

5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Ronald Montesano

    Feb 3, 2013 at 10:46 pm

    Roy…Sounding like Sergio~

    Mulligain…yes and yes.

  2. Mulliagain

    Feb 3, 2013 at 4:19 pm

    Great round and a great putt!

  3. Roy Jones

    Feb 3, 2013 at 11:27 am

    Fate hates the big oaf and loves Tiger

  4. Ronald Montesano

    Feb 2, 2013 at 6:35 am

    Troy…I agree~it was a great putt. I suspect that our putting experts would say that the putt was a prime candidate to lip out, however. It was bending and picking up speed, not dying at the hole. All it needed to do was hit an edge (as it did) and fate would take over. That it did the horrible horseshoe was worse for Phil and Bones.

    Remember too, that Phil made a few great saves off camera to get to that point. Funny how he could have gone 58 or 57, as he only played -1 over the final 5 holes. What a magical round.

  5. Troy Vayanos

    Feb 1, 2013 at 10:35 pm

    Great round of golf by Mickelson.

    Still can’t believe that last putt lipped out. Phil has continued the hot form through today shooting a six under 65.

    Can he keep it going for 36 more holes?

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Equipment

Spotted: Dustin Johnson with new Fujikura Ventus prototype at the Masters, RBC Heritage

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Beyond the obvious big news of some guy named Mr. Woods winning his fifth green jacket this past weekend, there were some pretty interesting developments with another player that runs on a first name basis or at least initials: DJ switched drivers MID tournament and had a new Fujikura Ventus prototype shaft to go along with his new TaylorMade M6 as he took on Augusta National Saturday and Sunday.

We don’t have all the details yet, but from what we have heard so far this new Prototype Black Ventus is an even lower launching version of the blue Ventus currently available. If history is correct, and we are looking at a line extension, then the colors tell a lot of the story. The Atmos line features both a blue and black version with a final higher-launching red version to round out the series in what Fuji calls their color-coded launch system to make fitting and product recognition just that much easier.

Photos of the “black” prototype via Fujikura.

It’s not unusual for shaft companies like Fujikura to bring out prototype profiles utilizing technologies from their newest lines to try and get them into the bags of more players. Fuji’s newest technology is VeloCore, and we have already seen it adopted at a high rate. Here is some more info from Fujikura to explain the technology

“VeloCore is a multi-material core comprised of ultra-high modulus Pitch 70 Ton Carbon Fiber (about 150% stronger and more stable than T1100g) and 40 Ton bias layers that are the full length of the shaft for incredible stability. VeloCore Technology promotes consistent center-face impact and provides ultimate stability, tightening dispersion and increasing control. The result is a shaft that maximizes the MOI (moment of inertia) and ball speed of your clubhead through the reduction of twist during the swing and at impact, especially on off-center hits.”

This makes sense, considering any contact made beyond an absolutely perfect (almost impossible from a physics standpoint) strike in line with the COG of a driver head traveling at 120 mph will result in twisting at impact — MOI is maximized in driver heads to increase stability along with spin with Ventus and VelocCore, Fujikura thanks to their Enzo system, is better understanding how that relationship works with the shaft to produce new and better products.

Anyway, since we know DJ deviated from his traditional Fujikura Speeder Evolution II Tour Spec driver shaft for his weekend rounds this past weekend, we can expect to see it again this week at the RBC Heritage this week at Hilton Head, and we’ll have our eyes peeled to see where else this shaft pops up on tour.

Johnson teeing off during Wednesday’s RBC Heritage Pro-Am.

 

 

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Courses

No. 12 at Augusta National: The Golden Bell tolls for Koepka, Molinari

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On Sunday, Tiger Woods accomplished what many thought he could never do by winning another major championship, the 2019 Masters. In collecting his fifth green jacket, Tiger added a new luster to what was already a brilliant legacy. Woods overcame unusual start times, difficult conditions and a generation of young golf warriors that he helped to create. And like every champion before him, Woods had to contend with holes 11 through 13 on Sunday, the beautiful beast nicknamed Amen Corner by the great golf writer Herbert Warren Wind.

Of the three holes, it seems that 12 is the one that has drowned more hopes and dreams in the creek that winds through the terrible trio than either of the other two. Arnold Palmer made six on Sunday in 1959 on the way to losing to Art Wall by two. Tom Weiskopf made a mind-boggling 13 in 1980. Greg Norman had a double bogey during his Sunday collapse in 1986. And there’s Jordan Speith’s quadruple bogey in 2016, which some think he has still not recovered from. Through the generations, the hole named Golden Bell has sounded a death knell for many a would-be champion.

This week, I had the opportunity to walk the back nine at Augusta National with Robert Trent Jones, Jr. Jones is an acclaimed golf course designer in his own right but he is also the son of the legendary Robert Trent Jones, the man who designed the second nine at Augusta National as we know it today and therefore shaped history and the outcome of so many Sundays for so many players.

As we walked along the holes Jones described the changes both dramatic and subtle that his father had made in 1948 to shape the second nine, and I came to a greater understanding of why the stretch is so special. The second nine was deliberately crafted as the ultimate offer of risk/reward. It was designed to create heroes and tragic figures of epic proportions. As we got to the tee box at number 12, Mr. Jones’ well-known face (as well as the microphone I was holding in front of it) caused a crowd together around us as he described what his father had done with the most famous par three in golf.

Jones pointed out how the wide, narrow green on the 12th follows the path of Rae’s Creek which runs in front of it.

“It appears that the creek and the green are running almost perpendicular to the tee box at 12, but the right side of the green is actually significantly further away from the golfer than the left side. This is critical when it comes to playing the Sunday hole location on the right side of the green. Because of the way the hole is framed by water and bunkers, the golfer is deceived into either selecting the wrong club or taking a half swing, which often leads to a shot into the water.”

Jones’s words proved prophetic, as Brooks Koepka and Francisco Molinari made watery double bogeys that doomed their championship hopes. Woods, on the other hand, made par on 12, providing the spark that eventually led to his victory. How did Woods negotiate the 12th?

Again, RTJII shared his crystal ball. “Jack Nicklaus played the 12th better than anyone because he always played to the middle of the green,” noted Jones. “Jack felt that whether the pin was on the right or the left, a shot over the front bunker to the center of the green would take a big number out of play and maybe leave an opportunity for a birdie.”

Sure enough, on Sunday while pretenders to the throne went pin seeking with either the wrong club or ill-advised half swings, Woods channeled his inner Nicklaus, hitting a full-swing 9-iron with conviction to the middle of the green and safely two-putting. It was at once humble and heroic. It was the thing that heroes and champions do: survive demons in order to slay dragons. The moment his tee shot on 12 landed safely was the moment that I, and many others, knew in our hearts that Tiger Woods was, in fact, going to win again at Augusta. It is a singular accomplishment, made possible by his combination of wisdom and nerve at number 12 on Sunday. Amen, indeed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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All our photos from the 2019 Masters

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We have 15 threads packed full of photos from Augusta National for your viewing pleasure during this Masters weekend.

We’re rounding them up here for your convenience. Enjoy!

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