Mickelson a U.S. Open bridesmaid again
By BILL HUFFMAN
The U.S. Open seems to befuddle Phil Mickelson like no other major, which is why he now holds the dubious distinction of being a runner-up in the national championship a record five times.
Mickelson had a share of the lead with five holes to play at Bethpage Black on an extended Monday, and promptly bogeyed the 15th and 17th holes to lose a rain-plagued nail-biter to long shot Lucas Glover. It was reminiscent of Lefty’s failure coming down the stretch at the Masters in April, where he got into contention then faltered over the last four holes.
All three of the runner-ups this time around – Mickelson, David Duval and Ricky Barnes — would have been a great story within the U.S. Open story. But it was the straight-laced Glover, a guy with virtually no track record to speak of in the majors, who walked away with the hardware by a comfortable two shots at 4-under-par 276.
Mickelson grabbed his chunk of infamy by moving past a storied group of golfers who all had four runner-up finishes in the U.S. Open – Bobby Jones, Sam Snead Arnold Palmer and Jack Nickalus. By comparison, the former Arizona State All-American only has one runner-up finish in the other three majors (2001 PGA).
Glover, who has one win in five years on the PGA Tour (2005 Walt Disney Classic), finally wore down Ricky Barnes in the final pairing with a bunch of pars and a critical birdie at the 16th hole. A classy kid from Clemson, Glover closed with a 73 to a 76 for Barnes, who had led by one stroke going into the final round before he got caught on the bogey train.
Tiger Woods could do no better than a tie for sixth despite a closing 69. The No. 1 player on the planet has now gone four straight majors without moving closer to Nicklaus on the major championship list. Nicklaus is sitting on 18 majors compared to Tiger’s 14.
Mickelson, whose wife Amy begins breast cancer treatment on July 1, had stated at the beginning of the week that he was trying to win the trophy so it could be in Amy’s hospital room during her cancer-treatment stay. But his putter kept that from happening, as he missed relative short putts to save par when it counted most.
“Certainly I’m disappointed,’’ said Mickelson, who celebrated his 39th birthday on Tuesday. “But now that it’s over, I’ve got more important things going on.’’
But asked about his fifth runner-up finish in a U.S. Open, Mickelson could only shrug.
"I don’t know, I enjoy it, I play well in it, and I feel like I’ll have more chances (to win) it, ” Mickelson said of his U.S. Open track record, which includes three other top-10s and only two missed cuts in 18 appearances.
Glover, who captured the 2003 Gila River Classic near Phoenix, didn’t really take control until the final three holes. Then again that’s usually the case when it comes to a U.S. Open.
“Phil the Thrill’’ had wowed them at the 13th, where he hit a hybrid to five feet and made the putt for eagle. And it got really exciting when moments later, Duval made his third straight birdie at the 16th to create a three-way tie at the top when Glover bogeyed the 15th hole.
But give Glover credit, as his birdie at No. 16 combined with bogeys by Mickelson and Duval at No. 17 led to the biggest moment of his life. Barnes had a chance to put some pressure on Glover at the 18th hole, but missed a birdie – barely! – from about 15 feet.
“I’d be lying if I said the nerves didn’t kick in,’’ said Barnes, who had racked up seven bogeys through his first 12 holes before a birdie at No. 13 let him play the final six at 1 under.
“I did hit some squirrelly shots and some mud balls. But I finally settled in (late in the round), and I had a chance at the end. I would have loved to finish second (place) alone, but I’m happy for Lucas.’’
The Scottsdale pro and former University of Arizona All-American, who was ranked No. 519 in the world compared to Glover’s No. 71, had to qualify for the tournament in sectional play. It was Barnes’ first top-10 as a professional at the PGA Tour level, and the runner-up finish also gets him in to the upcoming British Open and 2010 Masters, which will both be firsts.
Duval came from even further out of nowhere, as he was rated No. 882 in the world coming in. But much to the fans’ elation, Double D ended up somewhat remarkably with his first top-10 in a tournament in almost seven years. Amazing, considering Duval was rated No. 1 in the world just 10 years ago.
Glover collects $1.35 million from the $7.5 million purse and a whole lot of respect he didn’t have before he got to Bethpage Black. He came in without a top-10 in 10 previous appearances in the majors. In fact, Glover had missed all four cuts in his previous four appearances in the U.S. Open. He also gets a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour as well as a five-year exemption into the majors.
The mild-mannered champion aside, it was an exciting finish to a wild week that saw the U.S. Open never finish on time due to rain. Glover might not have been the most-popular choice to win at the end — maybe not even third or fourth most — but he is the 109th winner of the national championship.
Can Scottsdale\‘s Barnes go the distance?
By BILL HUFFMAN
Ricky Barnes STILL is sitting pretty even if most observers think the Scottsdale pro will self-destruct before he gets to the 72nd hole of the U.S. Open at Bethpage Black – maybe some time Monday, who knows!
That’s the thing about Barnes, no one knows for sure how hel’ll hold up because he is, basically, a player without a track record despite winning the 2002 U.S. Amateur. Considering his best finish on his spotty PGA Tour resume is a tie for 14th at the 2004 FBR Open (sponsor’s exemption), it seems unlikely that he would become the first player since Jerry Pate in 1976 to make the U.S. Open his first professional victory.
But if that should happen, it would be the biggest shocker in a U.S. Open since 1969, when Orville Moody edged Deane Beman, Al Geiberger and Bob Rosburg by a stroke at the Champions Club in Houston. That it’s the 40th anniversary of that “shocker’’ might work in some weird way for the former University of Arizona All-American.
All we know about Barnes, who is at 8 under par after a 70 in Round 3, is that he now owns the record for low 36-hole total at a U.S. Open (132) and the second-lowest 54-hole total (202). Of course that record/achievement received a big boost by the fact they were posted on par-70 courses, so they’re slightly tainted.
Lucas Glover is only a stroke back and seems like the more legitimate threat. Another 64 like Glover shot in the second round, and the big kid from Clemson wins. But like Barnes, he’s probably pretty spent and his best scores might be behind him.
Speaking of “out of nowwhere,’’ what is David Duval doing here, lurking five shots back at 3-under? Double D was supposed to be long gone by now, but after faltering and the beginning of both his second and third rounds he has bobbed back to the surface. If Duval is to prevail it would take an act of the golf gods. (Hey, that’s certainly OK with us!)
Also at 3-under is Ross Fisher who has plenty of game. But as we all know, no Euro since Tony Jacklin in 1970 at Hazeltine has been able to take a U.S. Open. What the Englishman has going for him is that he finished fourth at the most recent Match Play in Tucson, and might be sneaky good.
Mike Weir, Hunter Mahan and Phil Mickelson are at 2 under, and like everyone else in New York, we like Mickelson, who birdied four of the last six holes to get back within shouting distance. Barnes and Glover have to shoot over par on their last 18 holes and Lefty a 67, which is very do-able. (Unfortunately, Weir and Mickelson both have the southpaw jinx going against them as no left-hander has ever won the U.S. Open.)
Sean O’Hair, Bubba Watson, Todd Hamilton and former U.S. Open champ Retief Goosen are at 1 under and also still alive. Of that foursome, O’Hair and Goosen could get it done but don’t lay any money on Bubba or Hamilton.
Tiger Woods is nine shots back, which is better than the 14 he was at one point. He’ll need at least a record-tying 63 and Barnes and Glover to implode.
Paul Lawrie holds the record for comebacks in a major at 10 strokes thanks to Jean Van de Velde in the 1999 British Open. Arnold Palmer set the standard of seven shots in a U.S. Open when he came back to beat Jack Nicklaus in 1960 at Cherry Hills.
So Tiger needs a record round for a record comeback. And, well, it’s not going to happen the way he’s driving and putting the ball.
The prediction here: Barnes, Glover and Mickelson all end up at 5 under. The playoff on Monday afternoon/Tuesday morning caps a weird week at the U.S. Open at Bethpage Black.
Barnes in eye of U.S. Open storm
By BILL HUFFMAN
It’s going to be a very long night for Ricky Barnes, the surprising leader at the midpoint of the U.S. Open at rain-plagued Bethpage Black. But that’s nothing compared to the long day – 36 holes — that awaits the former University of Arizona All-American come Sunday.
Barnes, who lives in Scottsdale, is sitting at a tournament record 132 after a 5-under-par 65 completed Saturday’s second round. He never made it to the starting gate to begin his third round, one of 11 guys who were stuck on the practice green when the U.S. Golf Association called play because of rain and soggy conditions around 8:30 p.m. (East Coast time).
How Barnes handles his lofty status remains to be seen, as he is one stroke better than Lucas Glover and two shots in front of the little Canadian, Mike Weir. Barnes’ best finish in five spotty years on the PGA Tour is a tie for 14th in the 2004 FBR Open. Barnes’ best finish this season came last week at the FedEx St. Jude’s Classic, where he tied for 47th.
That Barnes is 11 shots in front of defending champion Tiger Woods seems improbable at best. But Woods has had his struggles, and for the second straight day he closed with a bogey that left him 3 over with 35 holes to go.
The No. 2 guy on the planet, Phil Mickelson, was in much better shape, holding steady at 1 under and stuck on the second fairway when the greens became unplayable due to the never-ending deluge. More rain is in the forecast, meaning a messy Sunday and a Monday finish still might be in the cards.
“I think if I can get hot with the putter, I like my chances in the next two rounds,’’ said Mickelson, who would have been one shot better if not for a weird ruling that cost him a penalty stroke when his ball became embedded/unplayable during his second round.
There are others with great opportunities, most notably Lee Westwood (2 under), Sean O’Hair (2 under) and former U.S. Open champ Retief Goosen (1 under). But the truth is that even Woods might not be out of it with the tournament turning into a survival test.
Remember, Lou Graham came from 11 strokes back at the midpoint in 1975 to win the U.S. Open at Medinah. Of course, Graham needed 90 holes to do it as he beat John Mahaffey in a playoff.
If that would happen this time around, the 109th U.S. Open has an outside shot to finish up on Wednesday.
\‘Top Cop\’ comes oh-so close in Open Challenge
BY BILL HUFFMAN
With his TV debut set for Sunday at 9 a.m. on NBC, Phoenix police officer Larry Giebelhausen, “America’s Top Cop in Golf’’ was licking his wounds Saturday after his big week at Bethpage Black in New York.
“I’m still recovering,’’ said a dejected Giebelhausen, who had earned a spot in the U.S. Open Golf Challenge sponsored by Golf Digest alongside the more celebrated Michael Jordan, Ben Roethlisberger and Justin Timberlake.
“I got off to a bad start, and I guess the pressure got to me. I was good on the range but I just couldn’t take it to the first tee. When (Mark) Rolfing announced my name, the moment just kind of overpowered me.’’
As a result, for the second straight year the “average guy’’ in the national contest failed to break 100, although Giebelhausen came oh-so close with a 101. Last year, Joe Atkinson, the original winner from Omaha, shot 114 at the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines.
“I guess I came a little closer (than Atkinson),’’ Giebelhausen said of the challenge laid down by Tiger Woods two years ago when he said a “10-handicapper’’ couldn’t break 100 on a U.S. Open layout.
“All week long, I’ve been playing it back in my head . . . ‘could of, should of, would of,’ ’’ Giebelhausen said. “I was so close but the (sextuple bogey) 10 (on No. 16) just killed me.’’
The U.S. Open Golf Challenge was recorded on Friday, June 12 and will be played back from 9 a.m. until 10:30 p.m. Sunday. Conditions were similar to what players have gone through this week at Bethpage Black.
It started raining on Giebelhausen’s group on the third hole – “it was really coming down’’ – and it lasted until the 15th hole. As the Phoenix lieutenant mentioned, his start was cruel as he went 7-4-8 before the wet stuff came.
“When I got to (No.) 16, I was pretty exhausted,’’ said Giebelhausen, who was selected from 73,581 contests for his answer to a six-word essay: “I’m a cop. I’ll shoot low.’’
Giebelhausen did peal off his raingear at the 16th tee, “But I was drenched, and then I started off by hitting my drive into the rough and losing the ball.
“It all added up to the 10, and I still had a chance to break 100 if I could have parred the last two holes. But I didn’t get it done. . . .’’
The highlight of the week was playing the practice round the day prior to the actual competition, Giebelhausen said.
“That was the most fun, as everyone was relaxed, and I played pretty well, probably shot 90,’’ Giebelhausen said. “But all the guys were great, and Anthony Kim actually joined us, which made it even that much more pleasurable.
“We had some good-natured trash-talking, and I really enjoyed the company of Fred Couples (who caddied for Jordan), who was a really nice guy. In fact, he tried his best to calm me down (during the real competition) and I appreciated that.’’
Giebelhausen said all he hopes for today when NBC airs the competition is that “they show at least a couple of my good shots.’’
“It was very discouraging, but it is what it is,’’ Giebelhausen said of the 101, which was 31 over par. “Overall, it was a great experience, but I’ll have to live with that score forever.’’
Glover, Barnes top unlikely leaderboard
By BILL HUFFMAN
When Lucas Glover captured the 2003 Gila River Classic in Phoenix, he just “looked’’ like a player. Big, strong and gifted with a silky-smooth golf swing, the Clemson All-American also captured the 2005 Funai-Walt Disney Classic and then seemed content to finish in the top-10.
Does Glover have enough game to hold up at the U.S. Open at Bethpage Black? Probably not, although he is at 6-under-par and a shot ahead of another former collegian that big things were predicted – former University of Arizona All-American Ricky Barnes of Scottsdale.
Glover and Barnes, a star-crossed type, are the unlikely pace-setters at the mid-point of the second round – whatever that is — of this rain-plagued U.S. Open. How long it will take to finish Round 2 remains to be seen, as yet more rain is forecast Saturday in Farmingdale, N.Y., the Long Island suburb that is hosting what has the potential to become WaterWorld II.
For most of Friday, Mike Weir stole the show with an opening 6-under-par 64 that came within a shot of equaling the best 18 holes in a major championship. Never has there been a better score recorded in golf by hitting mostly fairway woods and hybrids into par 4s. And for the record, never has a left-hander won the U.S. Open.
David Duval shot 67 (another shocker) and was holding steady after a shaky start to his second round. Duval actually showed shades of his past, when he shot 59 and was No. 1 in the world.
Phil Mickelson was 1-under when the day ended was pretty true to form. But Tiger Woods being 10 shots back after his round fell apart for a 74, well, that was a head-scratcher. That TW was even par through his first 14 holes was hard to believe that he ended up deep in the pack.
“I hit some good shots. It wasn’t like I was hitting it all over the place,’’ said a defensive defending champ, who was the only player under par (3 under) when he captured the first U.S. Open held at Bethpage Black in 2002.At this point of the U.S. Open, I like Mickelson’s chances. It was 10 years ago on the 18th green at Pinehurst that the late Payne Stewart said to Lefty: “Your time will come.’’
Unfortunately for Woods and the rest of the first wave, they got the short end of the weather. The difference in the average score from the early wave that got rained on to the later group that got great weather was almost two strokes.
Considering all that Mickelson has been through lately, you’ve got to like his Karma. Plus, he’s always at his best when Woods is, mostly, out of it — and he could be!