Oh, sweet Phillip……just when we left you for dead at Merion, you make us get right back on the roller coaster for two weeks of a thrill ride. In case you were in a coma or drunken stupor, Phil Mickelson made a late Sunday charge to steal the 2013 Open Championship out from under the other contenders. Mickelson had the round of the day that included clutch birdies on 17 and 18 that put the tournament to bed and gave him a 3 shot lead with only a few holes left to play for the final groups behind him.
I’m honestly still stunned by what I just watched. I left this guy for dead at Merion, then I threw more dirt on his grave when he shot 74-72 on Friday-Saturday and said in my last post that he had no chance today. I’m not alone. Only 6% of the voters from the poll on this site thought Philly Mick would win the Open.
If I could stand to applaud him or tip my cap I would, he earned it, and the back story of his U.S. Open heartache still looming makes this huge. Paul Azinger didn’t hold back as the championship came to a close. He stated that Phil is one of the greatest players to ever play the game. That’s pretty hard to argue now that he’s captured 5 majors and has 3/4 of the career grand slam. Phil having 6 runner up finishes in the only major he hasn’t won only strengthens Zinger’s case.
Mickelson’s post round interview with ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi was fairly revealing too. He agreed that this was one of the rounds of his life and that he’s never putted better. He credited Bones for being so good on the bag this week too. All class.
If you read my bullshit here often you know I can be hard on Phil for his fuck ups, his hair, his pants, or just about anything. He normally deserves it. Not now, not this week, and not for a while. He’s getting a pass at least until the PGA. Don’t think I’ve gone soft though, I’m still updating my tally of his taxes owed.
Who would have thought 5 years ago when Tiger won the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines that we’d be sitting here today with him still stuck on 14 majors? Outside of the 2009 PGA at Hazeltine he really hasn’t been that close. Today was likely his best opportunity and he (or his game) didn’t show up. He was awful from tee to green and awful on the greens for most of the day. Then of course he told the media that the greens were slower in round 4 than they had been the rest of the week and it had an impact on him. Really Eldrick? More excuses. Suck it up and adjust like everyone else did. The speed didn’t bother Phil and he’s not a fan of slow greens either.
Tiger’s drought is nothing in comparison to the 61 majors Lee Westwood has played in without winning. Lee is the new Colin Montgomerie, minus having most of the United States’ golf fans hate him. He’s never going to win a major and Monty has even warned him that his likely won’t happen since it hasn’t by the time he turned 40. That’s harsh, but looks more and more accurate with each major Westwood lets get away.
This championship was set up for him to finally close the door and get the major monkey off his back. Instead, Lee’s game went into a shell like a scared turtle. Back nines when you’re in contention at a major will at some point define who you are in golf history, yet Lee’s game runs and hides when he’s in the midst of these moments. He’s terrified to be in them. Go ahead and throw his Ryder Cup success back in my face, that doesn’t hold water. Those are team events and match play. You have teammates to pick you up when you miss a putt or lose your match. In the majors, you’re on an island with nothing but a somewhat helpful caddie at your side. When Lee’s on the island he’s can’t handle the pressure and that’s how he’ll be remembered until/unless he proves otherwise.
Adam Scott was the other contender who let this championship get away from him on the back nine. He did have a two shot lead before Phil went nuts, but Adam’s wheels were starting to come off even without Phil’s heroics. He started to miss fairways and greens when the pressure was turned up on the inward nine. His balky putter…… yeah, that showed up too conveniently and not surprisingly at the same time. Nice reads, Stevie. So what, right? Scotty already has a a major this year. Yes, these chances don’t come around all the time, but they’re starting to for Adam. He almost won the British last year and he’ll be around in future majors similarly to how Greg Norman was in his prime.
Winners & Losers Of The Week
Phil Mickelson – As always here, the winner is always the biggest winner, that goes without saying. He throttled down his game to win two weeks in a row and got back off the mat after another heartbreaking U.S. Open loss. His play in the final round was incredible and his 32 on the tough back nine will be looked upon in golf history in the same light as Jack’s back nine at Augusta in 1986.
Phil’s appreciation for links style golf is something he had to acquire a taste for. He’s a student and historian of the game, as you might have noticed with his reference to Azinger’s 1987 gaffe that cost him the jug in his post round chat with Rinaldi. The fact that he is these things and has changed his impression and attitude toward this style over the last decade makes me value him as the Championship Golfer of the Year even more.
Muirfield – Even under scorched earth conditions, this track still produced another fine major champion. Every winner of an open at the storied club is in the World Golf Hall of Fame. Phil is already in. While there aren’t many memorable holes there are none that are weak and give up unearned birdies. Kudos to the club and the grounds staff for letting it get crispy, but keeping it fair.
Jim “Bones” McKay – It seems like an obvious one because he’s the loop on the winner’s bag, but I didn’t credit the past two majors winners’ caddies for this year when their guys won. Bones isn’t even a caddie in Phil’s world. He’s a consultant, a friend, and part of his family. He’s been on the bag for every professional tourney Phil’s ever won, but this one was different. Phil gave Bones credit for his work this week and you could see how much this meant to McKay as he was in tears after the outcome was no longer in doubt. Good for him for the recognition and the display of emotion. Working for Phil can’t be that easy, but it’s probably a lot of fun (most of the time).
The Bitch Tits Tax-O-Meter – That’s another $1,400,000 at a 62% tax rate added to the total I keep on this site for 2013. That is official money on the PGA Tour, so I have to add it. Yet I’m not sure how Phil is actually taxed on it. Does the country he won the money in collect a tax? Does he still pay U.S. taxes on it? Does his home state still get a chunk? I’d love for a bean counter to Phil me in on how this breaks down. CPAs, please leave a comment if you can help.
Duf-man – A pretty decent Sunday round for the former Auburn Tiger, then he took to Twitter to provide live commentary for all to see. It was fantastic and he did it with accuracy, great insight, and humor. Well done Duf. Here’s a sample:
Tiger –Five years and counting with no major wins. Glory’s Last Shot indeed this year in the PGA at Oak Hill. He’s close, but isn’t closing. His game failed in almost all areas at some point in the final round at Muirfield. He’s not the Tiger of old and he probably never will be. Plus, he’s fucking a cow named Lindsey Vonn. That only helps to put him on the top of the loser list.
The R&A– They slapped a 1 stroke penalty for slow play on a guy that wasn’t causing a problem. That stroke cost Matsuyama $143,000 and a guaranteed spot in the field at the 2014 Masters. That’s fucking shitty of them. To top it off, they chirped in their media sessions early in the week about having the Open at a club that doesn’t allow women. Hey, that’s fine and they can do what they want to do, but they probably shouldn’t have been so adamant about their stance. Mr. Dawson, call Billy Payne and take some notes on public relations.
Lee Westwood – Most of what could be said about Lee is said above. Will Lee start to become a sympathetic and tragic figure like Phil was before he won a Masters? Or, will he start to become a cry baby Euro that never gets out of his own way (cough, Sergio, cough). I’d like to see him win won of these, but every missed opportunity equals more scar tissue, and his opportunities are running out.
Viewers – We all lost out on what could have become the greatest hour in the history of televised golf. What the fuck am I talking about? Think about this for a second. The British Open uses a 4 hole playoff system. If Tiger makes a few more putts and Phil doesn’t go all ape shit at the end of his round, the two of them could have easily ended up in the aggregate playoff. What a duel it coulda/woulda been.
Charl Schwartzel’s 6 iron– This was a few days ago and you’ve likely seen it, but I can’t get enough of it. Charl took out his 1st round frustrations on his 6 iron and ESPN got the whole thing on video, including slow-mo:
I’ve been there too many times. The bounce and the sound show you how hard the ground is/was at Muirfield. The way the club snapped also shows you how wiry strong Chest Hair Charl is. He also hit a 448 yard drive later in the tourney.
Player of the Year?
If you have to pick one right now, who would you pick, Tiger or Phil? TW has 4 wins, but no majors, obviously. Phil has two wins that count for the U.S. tour plus the Scottish and a 2nd at the U.S. Open. He also nearly shot a 59 in Phoenix. I saw this question being bounced around the tweeter and couldn’t decide. Four wins are hard to discount, but the statement made by FIGJAM today was huge. I think without knowing how the PGA and Fed Ex playoffs play out you’d have to say Phil at this juncture.
As many of you know, I’ve been on vacation all week, so I didn’t get to watch as much of the daily ESPN broadcasts as I’d like to. From what I did see, the network did spare us from further exposure to Chris Berman. That move probably saved lives. I know a few hardcore fans that were on suicide watch due to Berman’s U.S. Open hack job. I did see that the Worldwide Leader (WWL) had some pretty neat graphics on some holes where they’d show the ideal landing area, distance to it, and then use ProTracer technology to illustrate the flight of the ball once it left the club. That’s fantastic. Nice work from an ESPN golf producer on that shit. We need more of that.
Because I missed so much of the first 3 days I’ll lay off providing any harsh opinions on Zinger, Tirico, Strange, and Judy Rankin. They’re all typically adequate at their jobs so why even both with them. Andy North is always good and he was again this week when I was tuned in. I think Scott Van Pelt is also pretty good in the golf role ESPN uses him in. What I don’t like are Tom Rinaldi’s post round interviews.
His post round act makes it seem like he’s filming a story for Dateline and he’s trying to lure the player into admitting they came to him thinking he’s a 14 year old girl they’re about to butt fuck. He leads them into somewhat obvious answers to his lame questions, then usually provides some emotionally montage piece that the WWL thinks you want to see. Fuck that. Give me a golfer asking the post round stuff like Maltbie or Feherty and lose the deuche in the suit with a pocket square.
Then there was the reappearance of Dottie Pepper. She retired from NBC basically because she didn’t want to work as much as NBC wanted her to. Now she’s with ESPN and because they only work a few events she’s not ‘over-worked’. On NBC she knew her role and did it well enough to not make you notice her. At ESPN this week she often gave strange opinions like the new guy to a group telling a dirty joke that makes no sense. She also was hard to hear and seemed to murmur her thoughts out instead of saying them with conviction. She’s done this too long to not know better.
In Other News…..
In something called the Sanderson Farms Open, 49 year old tour pro Woody Austin won. Who knew he still even played golf for a living? Nice win for Woodman. His head and putter are safe this week.