Monday, May 14, 2007

Phil Mickelson Wins TPC!

It was the type of final round performance you would expect from a champion... 10 out of 14 fairways hit, 16 out of 18 greens in regulation, and a three under par 69... Just the type of performance you would expect from the winner of The Players Championship. What you didn't expect was for that type of performance from fan favorite, Phil Mickelson. Mickelson, also known as "Phil the Thrill" because of his lack of accuracy off the tee and ability to somehow scramble and make a par or even birdie when it seems next to impossible, produced just the type of 4th round you've come to expect from everyone but him. Three weeks ago, Mickelson began working with Tiger Woods' old swing coach, Butch Harmon and the results have resulted in a completely transformed Phil Mickelson. While outwardly still being the same old fan-favorite, "smiling Phil," his game has never looked better. Mickelson was in complete control of his game on Sunday, with only 3rd round leader Sean O'Hair giving him any sort of challenge.

Early in the round, O'Hair doggedly fought. Mickelson birdied the first hole to tie O'Hair at nine under par. Both players birdied the 2nd hole to get to 10 under. At that point the field started to fall back and a four stroke gap developed between the final pairing and the rest of the field. Until the final hole, no one got closer than three shots from the lead the rest of the way. Both players parred the 3rd through 6th holes, with Mickelson getting a birdie on the 7th hole for a one stroke lead. O'Hair tied Mickelson at 11 under with a birdie on the 9th hole, but just as quickly gave it back with a bogey on the 10th hole - it was the first chink in O'Hair's armor all day as he badly mishit a chip on his 3rd shot from just off the green. Mickelson increased his lead to two with a birdie on the 11th. After that, you could really tell the pressure was getting to O'Hair as it was literally taking him forever to play his shots - particularly his putts. There were several occasions in those final nine holes where he would take five, six or even seven practice strokes before putting. Consequently, the final pairing was two holes behind the field as they got to the 16th hole. Both players parred 12 through 16, with O'Hair missing a critical four foot birdie put on the 16th... The periolous 17th awaited them, and as we all know, anything can happen there... Sunday was no different.

Mickelson, who had the honor on all but three holes on Sunday, hit a safe shot to the center of the green on the 17th. O'Hair curiously took little time in hitting his 9-iron tee shot. With a two stroke deficit and Mickelson safely on the green, it was obvious what he had to do - go for the pin. O'Hair looked to hit a perfect shot, but as the crowd began to howl, it was obvious something was wrong - O'Hair's shot flew the green and went into the water! O'Hair added insult to injury by hitting his 3rd shot from the drop area into the water as well. The damage was done as O'Hair tallied a quadruple bogey seven on the hole to drop from second place to out of contention. The cruelest hole in golf? Many call it just that. Sunday certainly added to the hole's history and lore. O'Hair bogeyed the 18th to fall all the way to 11th... In the space of those two holes, he went from possibly coming in second and taking home a $972,000 paycheck to a $225,000 payday for finishing 11th. $747,000... that's how much he lost those final two holes! It was so sad to see this happen to him... for 70 holes, he played a GREAT tournament - a winning tournament. I hope that he can take from this experience and grow from it.

As Mickelson is my favorite player for the tour, I was happy to see him win the tournament and further silence the critics who got all over him for having a "meltdown" at the 72nd hole of last year's U.S. Open. Why do I like Phil? Well, he's ALWAYS smiling and he loves to interact with the fans and they love him back! He's also a family man with a beautiful wife and three beautiful girls... It's become a very familiar sight to us fans of Phil to see his girls run up to him after a tournament win and then get a hug from his wife Amy after a win. That was the only thing missing from Sunday - Amy had a friend's wedding to attend, so the "normal" Mickelson family celebration didn't take place... Still though, it was awesome to see Phil in such control of his game on Sunday. Perhaps now he may be able to give Tiger Woods a serious run for the #1 spot in the World Rankings.


In auto racing, Jeff Gordon held off a charging Denny Hamlin and survived an overheating engine to win the Darlington 500... Jimmie Johnson finished third. Gordon now has a 233 point lead in the points race as the Hendrick team won it's fifth consecutive race using the "car of tomorrow."

Time for a little baseball now... and there was some REAL excitement brewing in Boston... After eight innings, the Red Sox trailed the Baltimore Orioles 5-0... Oriole starter Jeremy Guthrie was seemingly crusing to an easy victory when it all just began to fall apart. With one out, catcher Ramon Hernandez made an error dropping a infield pop up hit by Coco Crisp. David Ortiz quickly cashed in Crisp with a double... Wily Mo Pena singled and J.D. Drew walked to load the bases. Kevin Youkilis walked to force in another run. Jason Varitek then hit a two run double to close the gap to 5-4... Eric Hinske was then intentionally walked. Alex Cora then hit into a fielder's choice with Youkilis being forced out at home. With two outs, Julio Lugo hit a grounder to first baseman Kevin Millar, who flipped it to Oriole closer Chris Ray... Ray inexplicably dropped the throw as he was running to cover first (it would have been the final out of the game) and Varitek and Hinske both scored to give the Red Sox an improbable come from behind 6-5 victory.

The Los Angeles Dodgers scored five runs in the bottom of the eighth to defeat the Cincinnati Reds 10-5 for a three game sweep of the series. Torii Hunter had two home runs and a career and 2007 major league high seven RBI's as the Minnesota Twins beat up on the Detroit Tigers 16-4. Former Dodger closer Eric Gagne got his first win as a Texas Ranger as the Rangers Nelson' Cruz hit a walk-off homer off Angels' set up man Shot Shields in a 7-6 victory.

Is there some hope for the Washington Nationals? Well, I posted that question on Friday morning, and guess what has happened since? They've won three straight games for the first time all year! Saturday night, Ryan Zimmerman hit a walk-off grand slam homer in a 7-3 victory... Yesterday, they scored five runs in the second inning and cruised to a 6-4 win over the Florida Marlins with Jon Rauch getting his first save in Chad Cordero's absence.


Lastly, I hope all of you mothers out there and all of your Moms had a very Happy Mother's Day!!!

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