Phil Mickelson left the inaugural LIV Golf Invitational Series beaten. The course for the Centurion Club took its toll as they tried to play for the first time in over four months. So did the media, often relentless in their criticism of the Saudi-backed circuit he chose to put his rusty skills on for.
The problems with his game are easily explained, given that he put his clubs away for a considerable time following his announced leave from the game.
Condemnation for his actions is simply something he will have to endure, something he clearly knew was coming given the controversy surrounding LIV Golf. It would be a polarizing issue without Saudi support; throw in the Public Investment Fund, Saudi Arabia’s human rights abuses and the idea that he – and others involved in it – is prepared to defend the country by taking the money.
The British tabloids had a particularly easy time. The Daily Mail, for example, called him “Greed Jacket” Mickelson. The questions posed at his Wednesday press conference were understandably pointed and relentless.
And it is unlikely to disappear.
Mickelson is playing his first event on American soil this week at the Country Club, site of one of ‘Lefty’s fondest memories: winning the 1999 Ryder Cup. It was the only time he and Tiger Woods played on the same Ryder Cup winning team. Woods, unlike the Masters and PGA Championship earlier this year, won’t be outside of Boston to distract.
Boston’s fanbase has a reputation for sharp abuse. Ask Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors. Could this really happen to Phil, a US Open fan favorite for most of his 30-year career? The six-time finalist in the only major he hasn’t won began his professional career at the event played at Pebble Beach in 1992.
Twenty years ago, he was the darling of New York fans at Bethpage, dubbed “the People’s Open,” even though Woods had won.
What kind of reception will Mickelson receive? There is a sad story at the venue itself, where at the 1999 Ryder Cup the spectators became so unruly on Sunday with their abuse of Scotsman Colin Montgomerie that his opponent – Payne Stewart – came to his defense and demanded security to have people deported.
Swede Jarmo Sandelin was also the subject of numerous reprimands. He happened to be playing Mickelson that day as the Americans rallied to an unlikely victory, overcoming what looked like certain defeat.
Now Mickelson could be the recipient of what could be his last US Open. The United States Golf Association said last week that it would not ban any LIV Golf player from competing, saying it would be inappropriate to change its qualification criteria.
But given that the PGA Tour has indefinitely suspended everyone who is a PGA Tour member — even those who have opted out — could the USGA change its criteria in the future?
This is just one of the many questions that remain to be answered following the astonishing developments of recent months.
Mickelson is unlikely to be a surprise at the Country Club. While Centurion Club was no pushover, it certainly isn’t the caliber of the US Open either. After shooting 69 on day one, Mickelson had plenty of trouble shooting 75-76 over the final two rounds. He tied for 34th in a field of 48 players, finishing 17 strokes behind winner Charl Schwartzel.
The South African hasn’t exactly been a world beater lately – it was his first win in six years – and Mickelson needed just three rounds to produce that kind of deficit.
“If he does get in, it would be a miracle, I really think,” NBC senior analyst Paul Azinger said on a conference call last week. “A little miracle that a guy who could come into conflict with whatever is going on.”
Mickelson has generally been extremely popular with galleries and he’s likely to have plenty of support. But the LIV Golf issue has all kinds of opinions.
“It’s a major disruption to the sport,” Azinger said. “I predict if Phil misses the cut, like Friday afternoon or something, it can be pretty tough on him, though. I just think it’s a big step that these guys have taken. They probably changed the game forever.
“I think the response will be mostly positive because he’s been a fan favorite for so many years. But that Boston crowd, they’re gonna let you know how they feel.”
A Canadian classic
Canadian golf fans deserved a drama-filled Sunday and Rory McIlroy produced, beating PGA Champion Justin Thomas with Tony Finau, who finished second with a birdie on the last hole. It was the first RBC Canadian Open in three years due to being canceled for consecutive years due to the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 and 2021.
Spectators were clearly enjoying the show and the place was packed for the weekend.
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And given the upheaval in golf in recent days and weeks, it was good to see some of the best players in the game battling between the ropes.
McIlroy shot a final round 62 (he shot 61 three years ago when he won) to win for the 21st time on the PGA Tour – then took a veiled shot at LIV Golf Invitational Series commissioner Greg Norman – who has 20 PGA Tour career wins.
“It’s amazing,” McIlroy said. “Playing with Tony and JT today, two of the best players in the world and all of us playing the way we did. He’s the one I’ll remember for a long, long time. One more than anyone else , it motivates me a little more today.
McIroy, Finau and Thomas are now all heading into the US Open with a healthy dose of confidence.
Before ! Things
1. Rory McIlroy will try to become the first player win a major championship following a victory on the PGA Tour as he did in 2014 at the WGC-Bridgestone and the PGA Championship.
2. Justin Rose became the second player since 1983 shoot or 60 or better with multiple bogeys during the round. Keegan Bradley shot 60 with two bogeys in the first round of the 2013 Byron Nelson.
3. The LIV Golf Series uses an F1-style podium for the first three. But what happens in case of a tie? This happened with Branden Grace and Peter Uihlein, who both finished at 5 under. The tie was broken by comparing scorecards on their last nine holes. However, the players split the third and fourth place money, so each won $1,275,000. Because LIV compiles points to determine an overall champion, all ties are broken this way, but the money is still split equally.
4. Two players not already exempted have won a place at the British Open via their arrival at the Canadian Open after placing in the top eight. Keith Mitchell and Wyndham Clark qualified by finishing tied for seventh in the Open Qualifying Series. Mitchell has now qualified for the tournament three times, previously in 2019 and 2020 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Clark will play there for the first time.
Mickelson and the Masters
The fallout for Phil Mickelson included skipping the Masters and the PGA Championship, where he was defending champion. Close to turning 52, Mickelson won’t have many opportunities to compete, which has made show jumping all the more disappointing. During the Masters, Mickelson was skiing in Montana.
“Every day of the Masters I skied in the morning and watched the tournament afterwards,” he said. “I enjoyed watching it. I thought Scottie Scheffler did an amazing performance there.
“I found myself missing the Masters but I didn’t want to be there. I hadn’t played, I hadn’t touched a club. I wasn’t able to be competitive. But I will always love this tournament, and if I’m not there, I will always miss it. But I didn’t want to be there.”
Honor of St. Andrews
Jack Nicklaus will receive honorary citizenship at St. Andrews next month during British Open week at the birthplace of golf. Nicklaus, 82, has won three British Opens among his 18 major titles, and two at St. Andrews in 1970 and 1978.
Nicklaus will become only the third American and the first to be made an honorary citizen since Bobby Jones was made Freeman of St. Andrews in 1958. Recognition equals the freedom of the city, which Nicklaus has declared to be “deeply honoured”. ” receive.
Also at the ceremony will be Lee Trevino, Jose Maria Olazabal, Catriona Matthew, Sir Bob Charles and Sandy Lyle, all of whom will receive honorary degrees from St. Andrews University.
US Open countdown
The US Open begins Thursday at the Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts, where one of the first great moments in golf history unfolded when 20-year-old amateur Francis Ouimet beat British greats Harry Vardon and Ted Ray in the playoffs.
The Country Club has also featured a few other famous playoffs, with Arnold Palmer losing (for the second of three US Open playoffs) to Julius Boros in 1963 and Curtis Strange winning the first consecutive US Open, this one. in the playoffs on Nick Faldo.
Last week the peloton came into shape as nine final qualifiers took place, including eight in the United States and one in Canada. Those who weren’t otherwise qualified and were in the top 60 last Monday also got a spot, as did 10 players from a UK qualifying system based on four DP World Tour events.
> It was an impressive performance from Linn Grant, who became the first woman to win on the DP World Tour.
> An interesting way to watch the Canadian Open.
> The Claret Jug will do the trick.
> The winners of the 2010 major tournaments – Phil Mickelson, Graeme McDowell, Louis Oosthuizen, Martin Kaymer – are now all part of the LIV Golf Invitational Series.
After this week, there is only one major championship left in 2022 – the British Open at the birthplace of golf. The Old Course at St Andrews. This will be the 150th edition of The Open Championship and no doubt much will be said about it ahead of the tournament, which kicks off on July 15.