Friday, June 23, 2006

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Paddy backs Lefty

Padraig Harrington, who had his own troubles at the U.S. Open, finishing with a string to three straight bogeys to fall to 5th place, thinks Phil Mickelson was right to hit driver on the fateful 18th.

But Paddy doesn't feel all that much sympathy for Mickelson or Colin Montgomerie, another victim of a sad meltdown. Here's excerpts from Harrington's pre-tournament interview at this week's Booz Allen Classic.

Q. As badly as you feel, what you think Monty and Phil must be thinking at this point.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I don't take any comfort from anybody else's pain. I've got my own pain to worry about. I'm not going to worry about them. Phil Mickelson has won the last two majors before that. I wouldn't second guess anything he did. Actually, if I was going to comment on that, I would say he hit the right club off the tee on 18.

Q. Tell me why.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: Well, the bunker is perfect. Not perfect, but it's not far off perfect. Once you hit it in the bunker or the first cut of rough on either side of the fairway, you can advance it up to the green. It was a pretty easy pin position on 18. You know, driver, get it down there, even if he misses the fairway, would mean he should get it around the green, on the green. I definitely think he played the right club for him. I don't think he carried the 3 wood. I would have hit 3 wood, but that would have been the right club for me. Looking back, I think he made the right choice in terms of his club selection offer the tee. I don't know what the second shot was like. He did win the last two majors before that. I wouldn't be judging him, let's say.

Q. How about Monty?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: He probably got a little bit caught like me, that he wanted to make probably trying to make birdie down the last. When he missed the green, thinking that he needed to make at least four, running the putt by, you know, it's strange how often in a major you think you got to do things at the end. To be honest, sometimes you do. This is the problem. Nobody is a soothsayer or can tell what the winner's score is going to be. If Monty turned around at the last, he chipped it by 30 feet by the hole, he was a bit unlucky it didn't come back down, say he left it short and 2 putted, Phil finished four over, he would have been sick about it. You just can't tell what's going to happen. So many times, it does happen that guys like myself, Monty, Phil, make mistakes at the end. At other times, somebody does good things like Geoff Ogilvy chips in. You have to play every shot you think you need to play at the time. I'm sure Monty did that.

Paddy on the set-up at Winged Foot...

Q. Was last week the toughest setup that you faced in your career?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: I actually thought last week was as straightforward a golf course as I've ever, ever played. That's one of the reasons why I feel so gutted. I think that's why so many of the Europeans did well. Like everything was in front of you. There wasn't a golf shot on that golf course that couldn't be hit, that couldn't be played. Maybe besides the pin on the back left of 18 and the pin on the front left of 18 were typical U.S. Open pins that I've seen in many years, you're looking at it saying, How am I going to get there? Certainly the front left pin in 18. You're playing I'm hitting my third shot in there Saturday. I'm trying to hit it to 60 feet away from the hole as my good shot. That's a tough mental thing to do, to try to hit a shot to 60 feet, and that's being your good shot. I pulled it toward the flag. I'm trying to hit a good shot that's going nowhere near it. That's usually what happens at the U.S. Open. This time everything was very straightforward, very fair. I've got to say, it was I say it was easy in terms of how the course played. Hit the fairway, hit the middle of the green. There was no shot there. I think, as well, with all the greens sloping back to front, I hit the ball low. There was no issue with me flying a ball in, trying to stop or hit it high. Most of the time there was plenty of room, you could hit it in and it would stop because of the slope of the green or you wanted to release up the green. Haven't come across a U.S. Open golf course that suited me as much as last week's course did.

Mickelson's misery

Days after blowing the Open, Phil Mickelson is still beating himself up. "It was how and when it happened," Mickelson's swing coach, Rick Smith, told Tommy Bonk of the LA Times.

For more on Mick's misery, click here.

My Round at Winged Foot

A day after Phil Mickelson and Colin Montgomerie gagged at the U.S. Open, I did a little gagging of my own at Winged Foot.

As it does most years, the USGA held a lottery for the media for a Monday morning round, and this year I was among the lucky. I played with Peter Kessler, formerly of the Golf Channel, now of XM Radio. It was 90 degrees and I was exhausted from the week of 12-14 hour days at the Open, which came on the heels of a long previous week at the McDonald's LPGA Championship.

This, of course, is my way of explaining just how badly I stunk, starting with the snowman on the the first hole. The new graduated rough at the Open was universially hailed, but let me tell you, when you got into the deep stuff, there was no gettin' out.

I hooked my opening tee shot into the grizzly green gnarl. Before I found it, I walked past my ball, over my ball and around the ball about three times. Even with a sand wedge, it was all I could do to hack it 30 feet not-so-forward -- into more of the deep stuff.

I do agree with Tiger Woods that the greens were a bit slow by Open standards. I'd guess they were running at about 10 on the Stimpmeter, which is slow. But I didn't think the greens were as bumpy as I expected after all the complaining by players.

Bottom line: It is an awesome course, easily one of my favorite Open venues.

Mulligan's Laws, Part 5

More truisms from the book Mulligan's Laws: A Lifetime of Golfing Wisdom from the Genius Who Invented the Do-Over:

It is surprisingly easy to hole a 50-foot putt when you lie 10.

Never leave your opponent with the sole responsibility for thinking of all the things that might go wrong with his shot.

The more often your opponent quotes the rules, the greater the certainty that he cheats.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Top 10

U.S. Open winner Geoff Ogilvy on Letterman

Top Ten Things That Went Through Geoff Ogilvy's Mind After Winning The U.S. Open

10. "This is one of those things you never forget like seeing John Daly in the locker room naked"

9. "I wish I hand't put all my money on Phil Mickelson"

8. "Even I've never heard of me"

7. "Now I can take a vacation from the grind of playing golf all day"

6. "Crap - - I'm gonna have to go on Letterman"

5. "After all these years, I can finally use my 'World's Greatest Golfer' mug"

4. "I can quit my day job at Outback Steakhouse"

3. "What would Reteif Goosen do?"

2. "I hope this victory isn't overshadowed by America's world cup excitment"

1. "Thank you, Balco!"

Monday, June 19, 2006

Ogilvy post Open

Most weeks out on the golf circuit, the players and the media don't stay in the same hotel. But we are this week at the U.S. Open.

In the halls and the lobby at the Crowne Plaza in White Plains this week, I have bumped into all manner of pros, from Jose Maria to Adam Scott. Not 10 minutes ago, I returned from grabbing a post-Open beer and burger in the lounge downstairs, where not 20 feet from me the new Open champion, Geoff Ogilvy, was celebrating with friends and well-wishers. Changed into jeans and a tee shirt, he and his wife were surrounded by about 30 fans, as they drank champagne from the Open cup. He posed for photos and signed anything anybody put in front of him.

Ogilvy is a quality player, and he will be heard from again. But in a way, I felt for him, because the 2006 U.S. Open will go down not as the one Ogilvy won but as the one Phil Mickelson blew.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Mickelson at the Open: OUCH!

Share Phil's pain. Read excerpts from his Open-ending interview:

Q. Talk about the disappointment that you must be feeling.
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I still am in shock that I did that. I just can't believe that I did that. I am such an idiot. I just couldn't hit a fairway all day.

I tried to go to my bread and butter shot, a baby carve slice on 18 and just get it in the fairway, and I missed it left. I just can't believe I couldn't par the last hole. It really stings.

As a kid I dreamt of winning this tournament. I came out here and worked hard all four days, haven't made a bogey all week and then bogeyed the last hole. Even a bogey would have gotten me into a playoff. I just can't believe I did that.

Q. How is it different with this loss than the last two times when you finished second at the Open considering the success and the work you've made and the confidence and maturity in your game or have you had time to think about it?

PHIL MICKELSON: This one hurts more than any tournament because I had it won. I came out here a week or two ago in the evenings, just spending the evenings on the last four holes thinking that I would just need to make four pars, that there's a good chance if I can just make four pars on Sunday, I could do it. I made a good par on 15, bogeyed 16 and doubled 18.
So it hurts because I had it in my grasp and just let it go. As opposed to somebody making a long putt or what have you.

Q. What happened on the second shot? What was your lie like?
PHIL MICKELSON: I had a good lie. I had to hit a big carving slice around the tree and over cut it, just like I over cut the tee shot and some of the other shots. Obviously, in hindsight, if I hit it in the gallery and it doesn't cut, I am fine. I can still make bogey, even par. I ended up hitting the tree.

Q. You were trying to go around the tree, not over it?
PHIL MICKELSON: Around, yeah.

Q. When it didn't clear, what ran through your mind when you didn't do that?
PHIL MICKELSON: Again, I just couldn't believe it.

Q. Was there something that was right in your eye?
PHIL MICKELSON: I was far enough back where I could move it around and get it up on the green, or certainly by it. I had a nice lie and just over cut it, just cut too quick right in the tree.

Q. Were you playing for par on that second shot or bogey?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I was playing for a par. If I would make par, I'd win the tournament. I just thought, "I can slice this." I had 185 front, 201, I think, to the hole. I thought I'd just put the 3 iron on the green, or if not on it, around it, and get up and down.

Q. (Inaudible).
PHIL MICKELSON: No, I didn't have a 3 wood. I carried only a 4 wood. I felt like if I hit 4 wood and missed the fairway, I'd be too far back to do any good, to be able to chase one down there. I just tried to go to that little bread and butter carve slice, like I used at 13 at Augusta and some other holes, and over cut that, too.

Q. What were your options on the second shot at 18? Was one to hit it into the bleacher?
PHIL MICKELSON: I didn't think that was an option. I had it cutting around the tree, but just too early.

Q. It was hard to stop, I imagine?
PHIL MICKELSON: It was buried. It plugged in the lip on 16, plugged in its divot on 18. I don't know what happened in those bunkers. I've never seen so much sand all week. Where those balls were, I just had very difficult shots.

Q. (Inaudible) what did you see there and what were you trying
PHIL MICKELSON: On 5? Well, I hit that shot better or can get it better out of the rough than a sand wedge, and I couldn't get a sand wedge back to the fairway it was sitting down so much. I kind of figured that might happen, but I didn't really have another shot at it.

Q. The second shot on 18, how close was that to being a perfect shot, maybe a foot or two?
PHIL MICKELSON: No, it wasn't that close. It over cut quite a bit. It had to go through it. Instead it hit a branch and went right back at me.

Q. How do you think you'll bounce back, Phil?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I'll head over to the British and try to get ready for that tournament. This one is going to take a little while to get over. This one is pretty disappointing.

Q. You mentioned that after a major gets over you spend three days in bed. Is that what's on the menu?


Mulligan's Laws, Part. 4

The less skilled the player, the more likely he is to share his ideas about the golf swing.

When your shot has to carry over a water hazard, you can either hit one more club or two more balls.

Golfers who claim they never cheat also lie.

Tiger's Open digs

Tiger Woods is gone from the U.S. Open, but not before bringing out gawkers who wanted to have a look at his yacht, Privacy, which he docked five minutes from the course.

One morning, when he emerged from below deck to head for the course, he was met by a photographer from the New York Post. Tiger had a few choice words for him.

For more, check out this story in the New York Times.

Ferrie Facts

If you don't know diddly about Kenneth Ferrie, the Englishman who shares the lead of the U.S. Open with Phil Mickelson, you're not alone. Not even the European golf writers know too much him.

Since Saturday night, I've spoken to three of my writer friends from London and Dublin and they all shake their heads. "I don't know where this is coming from," said one of them.

In his post-round interviews, Ferrie seems like a nice enough guy.

Here's Ferrie's player profile from the Open media guide:

Birthdate: September 28, 1978
Birthplace: Ashington, England
Age: 27 Ht: 6'4" Wt: 245
Home: Ashington, England
Turned Professional: 1999
Joined European Tour: 2001
European Tour Playoff record: 1-0
European Tour Wins: 2, - 2003 Canarias Open De Espana, 2005 Smurfit European Open

Player Notes: Claimed his maiden European Tour title when he beat Peter Hedblom and Peter Lawrie at the second playoff hole at the 2003 Canarias Open de EspaƱa. The 2002 winner had been Sergio Garcia which was appropriate for it was not the first time the pair's names had been placed side by side on a trophy, the first one being the British Boys Championship which Ferrie won in 1996 and Garcia won in 1997…Secured his card for the European Tour for the first time at the Qualifying School Finals in 2000. Won the Tessali Open del Sud on the Challenge Tour that year and finished joint runner-up the following week, but was unable to claim one of the precious 15 cards available through that route. Finished 193rd on the Volvo Order of Merit in 2001 but went to the Qualifying School Finals that year and took the 16th card. Narrowly avoided a return in 2002 when he finished 112th on the Volvo Order of Merit, his best finish being a share of third place in the Novotel Perrier Open de France. Coached by John Harrison. Brother, Iain, has also played on the Challenge Tour.

Claimed the biggest title of his career in July 2005 when he stood firm as others faltered at The K Club in Ireland to win the Smurfit European Open. Nearly followed that up with another victory in the Dunhill Links Championship in October but was overhauled by Colin Montgomerie in a thrilling last-round duel on the Old Course at St Andrews. Biggest disappointment of the year was narrowly losing out to Nick Dougherty for the final automatic place in the Great Britain and Ireland team for the Seve Trophy in his native northeast of England but took considerable consolation from the fact that he finished the year 11th on the Order of Merit, by far his best season on Tour.

2001 PGA European Tour Summary: Tournaments entered - 20; in money - 7; top-10 finishes - 0; stroke average 73.44 (ranked 197th); money _30,330 & £18,585 (ranked 193rd); best finish, T12th, North West of Ireland Open.
2002 PGA European Tour Summary: Tournaments entered - 20; in money - 7; top-10 finishes - 3; stroke average 72.71 (ranked 149th); money _182,625 & £116,444 (ranked 112th); best finish, T3rd, Novotel Perrier Open de France.

2003 PGA European Tour Summary: Tournaments entered - 30; in money - 16; top-10 finishes - 3; stroke average 71.87 (ranked 103rd); money _628,539 & £438,223 (ranked 34th); winner Canarias Open de Espana.

2004 PGA European Tour Summary: Tournaments entered - 26; in money - 16; top-10 finishes - 2; stroke average 72.01 (ranked 103rd); money _281,200 & £194,457 (ranked 72nd); best finish 9th, Linde German Masters.

2005 PGA European Tour Summary: Tournaments entered - 28; in money - 19; top-10 finishes - 5; stroke average 71.93 (ranked 108th); money _1,410,636 & £953,448 (ranked 11th); Winner, Sumrfit European Open.