Golf: Phil Mickelson

Mickelson's charge ends with pair of bogeys

May, 20, 2012
IRVING, Texas -- Phil Mickelson's final-round charge in the HP Byron Nelson Championship ended with disappointing bogeys on the final two holes.

Mickelson finished with a 4-under round of 66. After going to 8-under after a birdie on No. 16, Mickelson finished at 6-under and is currently tied for eighth.

Five players are tied for the lead at 9-under: Joe Durant, Jonas Blixt, Marc Leishman, J.J. Henry and Jason Dufner.

Dicky Pride is a shot back in sixth at 8-under and Jason Day is seventh at 7-under. The final group has five holes remaining.

Mickelson in contention after birdie run of 4

May, 20, 2012
IRVING, Texas -- To the delight of his sizable Sunday gallery, Phil Mickelson is mounting a final-round charge at the HP Byron Nelson Championship.

Mickelson recorded four consecutive birdies, beginning on No. 5, and played the first nine in four-under 31. He began the day tied for 21st, six shots off the lead. He has moved into a tie for fourth, two strokes behind leader J. J. Henry of Fort Worth.

Jason Day and Dicky Pride after three holes are tied for second at 7-under.

Overnight leader Jason Dufner suffered bogeys at No. 2 and 3 and has dropped back to 6-under.

Mickelson, the 1996 Nelson champion, converted birdie putts of 11 feet at No. 5 and No. 7, seven feet at No. 6 and 30 feet at No. 8.

W2W4: 14 guys within 4 strokes of lead

May, 20, 2012
IRVING, Texas -- It should be a fun final round with so many players bunched up on the leaderboard, hoping to pass Jason Dufner for a victory. Here are some things to keep an eye on:

* Wind. It's not supposed to blow quite as hard, but we should get some 10 to 15 mph winds and gusts that could hit 20 mph or so. That's enough to impact shots and make certain holes difficult.

Those holes would include No. 11, where if the wind blows across like it did Saturday, it could give players a chance to go for the green knowing they'll get help from the wind in keeping the ball out of the water. The downside: It can blow balls across the road and cause big numbers. Just ask Keegan Bradley, who likely had his tournament hopes dashed Saturday with a triple bogey on the hole.

* Early bird gets the worm. If you want to see someone play fast, check out Ryuji Imada. He's first off at 7:10 a.m. and is playing by himself (or with a marker if he chooses). Imada shot 79 on Saturday after shooting 67-68 the first two rounds.

* Players to watch early in the round: Jhonny Vegas (7:26 a.m.), Nick O'Hern (8:06 a.m.), Ricky Barnes (8:22 a.m.), Brian Davis (8:39 a.m.) and Todd Hamilton (former British Open winner from Westlake, Texas, tees off at 8:48 a.m.).

* Players will go off No. 1 tee all day in twosomes. Phil Mickelson, still the biggest draw of this event, tees off at 10:45 a.m. and is playing with Shane Bertsch.

* Six of the final 10 pairings include someone from Texas. That includes Fort Worth's J.J. Henry, who plays with Dufner in the final group starting at 12:15 p.m. Expect to see plenty of purple as TCU fans will be cheering on Henry. His caddie, Pete Jordan, also played golf at TCU.

* Vijay Singh is one of the bigger names on the leaderboard and is back in contention. He'll be in the third-to-last group with Jonas Blixt. They tee off at 11:57 a.m. If Singh continues to putt well, he'll have a chance as he sits two back of the leader.

* Three players to watch that are four strokes back: Ryan Palmer, Matt Kuchar and Bradley. They'll tee off right after one another (starting with Palmer at 11:12 a.m.)

* 2010 champion Jason Day is one back of the leader and fell behind because of a bogey at No. 18.

* Dufner will be tough to beat. He's used to being in the lead and taking care of business, as his win three weeks ago at New Orleans showed. He had a top-10 finish here last year.

Vijay Singh is back in contention

May, 19, 2012
IRVING, Texas -- There's a multiple major championship winner near the top of the leaderboard at the HP Byron Nelson Championship. And it's not Phil Mickelson.

Vijay Singh, who hasn't won on the PGA Tour since 2008, when he won three times, shot a 4-under 66 to finish the third round at 6-under for the tournament. A bogey on the 18th hole kept Singh from being even closer to the leaders.

"I haven't been in this position for a while," Singh said. "I've been looking forward to this position. I've worked really hard. I haven't stopped working and my game has been coming around but there weren't any signs of scoring. This is the first day where I kind of went out there and scored well."

Singh has one top-15 finish this season (tied for 13th at the Farmers Insurance Open), but did have two straight top-5s last August. Still, Singh will play in one of the late tee times Sunday with a chance to win.

If he can do it, he'll earn his second Nelson victory. Singh won in 2003, shooting 66 in the final round. That was before the course was redesigned in 2008.

Singh eagled the 16th hole and birdied the 17th before losing a streak at 18. Singh made a 38-foot putt on No. 16 for eagle and hit his tee shot on No. 17 to five feet. He missed a 5-foot putt for par on 18. Still, Singh could tell his form was coming around.

"I've been playing well, just letting it go here and there," Singh said. "I'd start off with a good round and then come back with a really bad one, that's what happened last week and the week before that. I'm just trying to manage my game right now and see what happens."

Phil Mickelson gets roars for chip-in

May, 19, 2012
IRVING, Texas -- It took 18 holes, but Phil Mickelson gave the crowd exactly what it wanted on the final hole of his third round.

Mickelson chipped in for birdie on No. 18, lofting the ball in the air from a swale just past the pin and watched as it rolled into the hole. The cheers could be heard all the way back to the 16th green at TPC Four Seasons Resort & Club at Las Colinas.

The birdie allowed Mickelson to finish under par for the round. He sits at 2-under for the tournament.

"It was a fun way to end the day," Mickelson said. "I had a lot of opportunities to get right back in the mix and made four or five mistakes there, sloppy bogeys, but I made some good birdies today and had some good things happen."

Mickelson knows he must get something going early in his round on Sunday to charge toward at the leaders.

"I think I'll probably be a little too far back to make a run, but you never know," Mickelson said. "I'm going to try to get a hot front-nine tomorrow."

Mickelson birdied the 18th one day after hitting in the water and making a double bogey, costing him a chance at an even lower second-round score. So how exactly do you play the hole?

"I prefer not to hit it in the water," Mickelson said, joking that it's more effective to avoid it. "The way the water cuts out in front into the fairway at its angle, it sets you up to hit it in the right rough. It's very difficult to get it to work around the corner. So I don't know what the best way to play it is. I just try to hit driver and I start it out over the water and the wind brought it back and I was able to hit the fairway, but it's a tough fairway for me to hit."

W2W4: Moving day at the Nelson

May, 19, 2012
IRVING, Texas -- It's Saturday and that's traditionally "moving day" on the PGA Tour. To make a move Saturday, golfers must adjust to the wind, which is expected to blow like it did Friday (15 to 20 mph, highest gust of 28). A few things to watch Saturday:

* Since 79 players make the cut, they'll be going off both tees in groups of three. That also means a cut will be made after Saturday's third round so that players can be paired for the final round.

* Get to the course early. The tee times start at 9:35 a.m. and Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson both have early tee times. Els tees off on No. 1 at 9:35 a.m. and Mickelson tees off at 9:45 a.m. off No. 1.

* Can Jason Dufner keep chipping balls in the hole? He did it twice Friday, including a chip-in from just off the green on No. 18, which gave him a one-shot lead. Before New Orleans, the question with Dufner might have been whether he could handle the lead on the weekend. But now that he's won a PGA Tour event, he's liable to be comfortable as he tries to hold it for 36 more holes.

* Matt Kuchar continues to play well fresh off his Players Championship win. I'll be honest: I thought Kuchar might be mentally worn out from that win. But he's hitting the ball well and putting his way toward the top of the leaderboard. As confident as Kuchar is, don't count him out.

* Keegan Bradley dropped a stroke on No. 12, his third hole, but came back with six birdies (he had four bogeys total) to shoot 68. Bradley took advantage of calmer conditions in the morning Friday. He probably won't be as lucky today. Still, the defending champion beat everybody in the wind last year.

* Neighbors Chad Campbell and Ryan Palmer will be playing together Saturday. So it won't be tough for local fans -- they are both from Colleyville, Texas, located between Dallas and Fort Worth -- to follow them as both are in the final threesome.

* Wind. Mother Nature seems to love to put a stamp on this tournament. She blew a mighty wind over the weekend last year. And while the forecast doesn't call for winds with gusts up to 40 mph like last year, it's looking like 25 mph or so. It will certainly impact the golf.

* TCU fans can come out and pull for a couple of former Frogs golfers. J.J. Henry, sporting his purple shirt Friday, shot 68 in the second round and is 4-under for the tournament. J.J. Killeen made the cut on the number at 2-over.

* Who could go low from way back? Keep an eye on Brian Gay. We talked about him before the tournament and he made the cut on the number. He likes the course and has gone low here before.

* Sleeper group: Vijay Singh, Gary Woodland, John Rollins. All three have played well in spurts this week and could feed off each other playing in the middle of the tee times at 10:35.

Round 3 times: Threesomes of both tees

May, 18, 2012
IRVING, Texas -- Since 79 players made the cut (2-over), they'll go off in threesomes Saturday starting at 9:35 a.m. at TPC Four Seasons Resort & Club at Las Colinas.

The complete list is here. Some highlights:

* Ernie Els is in a group with Jerry Kelly and Brandt Jobe at 9:35 a.m. off No. 1 tee.

* Phil Mickelson tees off right after that at 9:45 a.m. with Andres Romero and Scott Brown.

* Defending champion Keegan Bradley is in the 11:25 a.m. group with Marc Leishman and Ryuji Imada.

* The Players Championship winner Matt Kuchar tees off at 11:35 a.m with Dicky Pride and Pat Perez.

* Leader Jason Dufner joins Colleyville, Texas, neighbors Chad Campbell and Ryan Palmer at 11:45 a.m.

Late birdie run sends Dufner to Nelson lead

May, 18, 2012

IRVING, Texas -- Jason Dufner birdied four of his final five holes to grab the lead at the midway point of the HP Byron Nelson Championship.

Dufner chipped in twice in his late birdie spree, including a difficult 38-footer from a closely-mowed down slope beyond the No. 18 green, very near the spot where Phil Mickelson in the preceding threesome failed to get up and down and made bogey.

“That’s a difficult position to be over the back of that green to that hole location,’’ said Dufner, who recorded his first career win at the Zurich Class of New Orleans on April 29.

“Pretty lucky for it to go in, but that’s part of golf,’’ he added. “Sometimes you get those breaks, sometimes you don’t.’’

Dufner’s final birdie allowed him to cap off a round of 66 and break out of a seven-way tie for the lead at 7-under.

A glance at the scoreboard at No. 11 let Dufner know that nobody was running away with the tournament. He said his goal was to make a birdie or two in his last seven holes, a goal he exceeded.

Dufner chipped in for birdie from out of the primary rough right of the green on No. 15. He also converted birdie putts of 22 feet on No. 14 and 15 feet on No. 16.

Before the Nelson, Dufner led the PGA Tour in 2012 in scoring average before the cut (69.04) and the trend continues.

Through the first two rounds of PGA Tour events, Dufner owns the lowest scoring average

“My game has been consistent,’’ Dufner said. “Thursday was probably the best ball striking round I’ve ever had. I putted more than I hit the ball. I had 34 putts and hit the ball 33 times and that doesn’t happen very often.

“Usually when you’re feeling good, you’re going into the weekend leading or close to the lead, and I’ve been fortunate to be in that position, closed out one a couple of weeks ago, haven’t played quite as well in others, but hopefully the experience that I had in New Orleans will build for me and I will have confidence going into the weekend.’’

Phil Mickelson works his magic at No. 9

May, 18, 2012
IRVING, Texas -- Phil Mickelson said it wasn't his best ball-striking day. So he needed to scramble. Few on the PGA Tour do that better than Mickelson. That was clear on No. 9 on Friday.

Mickelson hit his tee shot left of the fairway and needed to hit what for him was a low fade from 128 yards away.

"I started trying to address it with a 5-iron and I couldn't get that five to feel like it would cut enough, so I tried a 4-iron and I couldn't get that to feel like it would cut enough, so I went with a 5-wood where I felt like I could get it to cut," Mickelson said. "It was more making sure the ball would cut so it wouldn't go in the water than trying to get it close, and fortunately it rolled up there well."

Mickelson ended up 17 feet from the hole and made birdie.

"It was hard to get it 15-feet from the hole, sure, but I wasn't worried about that," Mickelson said. "I was worried about cutting it enough so it wouldn't go in the water and getting it up there and on the green so it would go in the hole and fortunately I got a chance to make birdie."

Phil Mickelson: 'I really had a sloppy day'

May, 18, 2012
IRVING, Texas -- Phil Mickelson's inconsistent round finally caught up with him on the 18th hole. He hit his tee shot in the water and ended up with a double bogey. It came after he had birdied Nos. 16 and 17 and appeared ready to have a decent scoring round despite not playing his best. He sits at 1-under par, six back of leader Jason Dufner.

"I really had a sloppy day. I hit it terrible," Mickelson said. "I was getting so much out of the round. I was 3-under through 17 until the last hole making double. I'll have to get it turned around for tomorrow. I've been striking it well the last few weeks and not getting a lot out of it. Today was some of the worst ball striking I've had in a while, and hopefully I can get it fixed for tomorrow's round."

Mickelson said he's still in the tournament and wants to shoot in the mid-60s on Saturday to have a chance Sunday. He feels like if he can strike the ball better, he's feeling good enough with the putter that he can make something happen.

"I don't know what happened today," Mickelson said. "It was just fractionally off. It feels like it's off a little bit at the address position because I don't feel quite as comfortable as I have. I don't think it will take much."

Mickelson did not blame the wind, which was gusting more Friday than it has been all week.

"I would not say it's a tricky wind because it's not a swirling wind, it's just a consistent, steady, brisk wind," Mickelson said. "That's much easier to play with when you know what it's going to do because you can make the necessary adjustments. What's a lot harder is when you get a lot of trees and you get a swirling wind. Even with this wind, you can score really well on this golf course if you strike it well."

Phil Mickelson makes crazy birdie

May, 18, 2012
IRVING, Texas -- Phil Mickelson is the biggest name in the HP Byron Nelson Championship field and he's giving fans some entertaining golf on Friday afternoon.

Mickelson is once again hitting shots from everywhere. And his birdie on No. 9 was his most memorable of the Nelson so far. He hit his drive left and took a half-swing with a fairway wood, hitting a slight fade for him that avoided the trees and stayed low to the ground from 128 yards. The ball rolled up on the green and ended up about 17 feet from the hole. Mickelson made the putt for birdie and shook his head in amazement.

He's at 2-under for the tournament, putting him in position to make the cut with a solid back nine. The cut line has fluctuated between even par and 1-over, but with the wind blowing this afternoon, it would likely end up at 1-over.

Ernie Els overcomes stumbling start to shoot 70

May, 17, 2012
IRVING, Texas -- Ernie Els spotted the field two strokes with bogeys on the first two holes, but fought back for an even-par 70, matching playing partner Phil Mickelson and finishing three strokes better than Adam Scott in Thursday morning’s power pairing.

Els, opening on the second nine, hit his first tee shot in a fairway trap on No. 10 and made bogey. His drive on the reachable No. 11 found the water hazard left of the green and he said he was fortunate to get out with only a bogey there.

“I still have a lot of confidence, but this was a great day to score,’’ Els said. “If the wind gets up a little this afternoon, maybe we won’t be so far behind the eight-ball.’’

Els had two putts stop an inch from the cup and four more finish within a foot.

“I left a few putts on the edges, but you’ve got to be spot on,’’ Els said. “The greens are perfect. I can’t complain about anything. I just have to make more putts.''

Phil Mickelson impressed by Yu Darvish

May, 17, 2012
IRVING, Texas -- Shortly after completing his first round at even par, four-time major winner Phil Mickelson said he was trying to get to Arlington to see his second Texas Rangers game in less than 24 hours.

Mickelson, a big sports fan, attended Wednesday's Rangers game with Japanese star Yu Darvish on the mound. And the golfer enjoyed watching Darvish pitch well, allowing one run on four hits in 7 2/3 innings in a 4-1 Rangers' win over the A's.

"I had a really good view of it and it was pretty impressive," Mickelson said. "The differences in speeds from 95 to 68 to 75 to 88. It was all over the map. He had such great control. You could tell he's a special talent."

Mickelson interacted with fans before he left the ninth-hole scoring area and told some of them that he was pulling for the Dallas Mavericks and was disappointed they had an early exit in the playoffs.

Rick George, who used to work for the PGA Tour and is now the COO of the Rangers, organized Mickelson's Rangers visit. The golfer and his caddie, Jim "Bones" Mackay, sat with Rangers co-chairman of the board Ray Davis and talked sports for nearly eight innings Wednesday.

"Darvish was awesome," Mackay said. "When Mr. Davis told us how fast Darvish can throw it left-handed (in the mid 80s), we were like, 'Wow, that is obviously some kind of athlete.' The crowd for a Wednesday night game against the A's. No disrepect to anybody, but it was 40,000-plus.

"I didn't realize how young Darvish was. We all read about him in the offseason, but at age 25 he'd already proved himself enough that they'd want to throw those kinds of dollars around. There was a lot of scouting around and the guy is the real deal. The other thing that impressed me about the Rangers is that these guys really, genuinely like each other. I bet it's a great clubhouse."

Water at No. 18 already making an impact

May, 17, 2012
IRVING, Texas -- Apparently the lack of wind at the HP Byron Nelson Championship on Thursday doesn't mean players will avoid dunking golf balls into the pond on No. 18.

Tournament leader Jhonattan Vegas came to the 18th hole at 4-under on his front nine (he started at No. 10). But he hit his tee shot into the water and made bogey.

Louis Oosthuizen would have loved bogey. The 2011 British Open champion and the man who lost in a playoff to Bubba Watson at the Masters last month hit his tee shot into the water, dropped and promply splashed another one. He managed to drop and put his fifth shot to eight feet, but missed the putt. The triple-bogey dropped him to 5-over for the tournament.

Phil Mickelson flirted with the water on his tee shot in the opening round as his ball bounced on the bank and slid toward the pond. But the long grass held it and Mickelson made par. He's 1-under for the event.

Player to watch: Phil Mickelson

May, 16, 2012
IRVING, Texas -- It's always fun to watch Phil Mickelson attempt to go low here in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The Nelson hasn't seen Mickelson since 2007, but he has returned.

The last time Mickelson won the Nelson was 1996, well before he finally broke through with some major wins and started battling Tiger Woods for the label as the best in the world.

Player: Phil Mickelson
Why he can win: He's Phil, folks. He's capable of shooting a low number whenever he tees it up. And inhis last two Nelsons -- 2005 and 2007 -- he finished tied for 14th (2005) and tied for third (2007). He shot 66-65 on the weekend in 2007 to create a bit of a buzz.
Best Nelson finish: Champion in 1996 (has finished top-3 three times in 13 Nelsons)
Best finish on PGA Tour in 2012: Won AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.