Golf — Weekly 18 — From Phil Mickelson to Jason Dufner to Tiger Woods, it’s been a dizzying week in golf

Golf


This edition of the Weekly 18 was written entirely without the assistance of a single Muirfield Village milk shake. (I know, I’m not proud of that fact, either …)

1. I’ve spent a little time over the years discussing the U.S. Open with Phil Mickelson, during group interview sessions after devastating losses and informal conversations far away from those events. Here’s my best summary of Lefty’s tone during those talks: He really wants to win one. His career won’t forever have a gaping hole if he doesn’t, but I do think it eats at him that he has come so close, so many times. And so for Mickelson to decide to skip this year’s edition of the event to attend the high school graduation of his oldest daughter, Amanda, who will serve as commencement speaker, you know where that must rank on his priority list. Good for him. It’s called perspective.

2. Wanna feel extra old today? Consider this: The daughter Mickelson awaited while playing with a beeper in his golf bag during the 1999 U.S. Open is indeed the very same one who will graduate high school next week. Doesn’t seem like that long ago, does it?

3. In the hours after Mickelson’s decision went public on Saturday, many observers intimated he wasn’t doing anything that any other golfer wouldn’t do. Um, not exactly. Trust me on this one: Many, many, many other players have missed bigger life events for smaller golf events. Mickelson isn’t doing this just because he thinks everyone else would. If other players were faced with the same quandary, let’s not pretend that this would be the common decision.

4. I really need to stay off social media after news like this. A few of the freezing-cold takes in the immediate aftermath: He knows he can’t win, so he’s staying home. … He has known about this graduation for years, so he should’ve withdrawn earlier. … He should just play, because high school graduation isn’t really a big deal.

Jim Morrison sang it best. People are strange.

5. If you’re scoring at home, that was a routine 65-65-77-68 week for Jason Dufner, who played a little game of, “Which one of these things doesn’t belong?” while claiming the Memorial Tournament title. According to the PGA Tour, his third-round 77 became the second-highest Saturday score for the winner of a nonmajor since 1983. The highest? That would of course be Kenny Knox, who fired a third-round 80 while winning the 1986 Honda Classic.

6. In regard to how difficult it is to prevail on the PGA Tour, Dufner is fond of pointing this out: If you win 2 percent of the time, they’ll put you in the Hall of Fame someday. Granted, Dufner’s hypothesis doesn’t account for longevity or strength of field in those wins, but he’s on to something. And here’s a stat which might even make him crack a smile: He has won five titles in 278 starts — or 1.8 percent of the time.

7. Rickie Fowler now owns few pretty nice Memorial bookends. In his first start, in 2010, he finished solo second behind Justin Rose. On Sunday, a final-hole bogey dropped him into a tie for second place. In between? He didn’t exactly tear it up. Fowler finished T-22 in 2011; T-52 in 2012; T-37 in 2013; then missed the cut in each of the past three years.

8. Bubba Watson might not have been pleased with bogeys on two of his final three holes, dropping him to T-6 at the Memorial, but he must feel some sense of relief mixed with optimism after his best stroke-play result since going 1-2 in back-to-back starts last spring. Don’t be surprised to see the two-time major winner on some big-time leaderboards soon, perhaps starting with the U.S. Open, since the big ballpark of Erin Hills could suit his eye.

9. Don’t be too concerned about Dustin Johnson‘s missed cut at the Memorial. After all, he isn’t. The world’s No. 1-ranked player owns an innate ability to shrug off any short-term issues with his game. Shameless plug: Later this week, I’ll have a Q&A with DJ in which he discusses using setbacks as positive experiences and what scares him on the golf course. (Hint on the latter: Not a whole lot.)

10. It didn’t last, but early in the first round Steven Bowditch found himself at 4 under and in a share of fourth place. Why is that noteworthy? Because he missed the cut in 19 of 20 previous starts this season, including 15 in a row. While he wound up posting an even-par 72 that day and a 78 the next to miss yet another cut, things might slowly be starting to return to normal for the talented Aussie.

11. I spent a full day at the Jupiter Police Department this week, reporting on the Tiger Woods arrest, and came away with a few impressions. The first is that while Woods — as private a celebrity as there is — will undoubtedly be embarrassed by the mug shot and dashcam video which will forever remain on the Internet, he’s going to be a sympathetic figure to the masses. When (or if) he returns to competitive golf, he will have even more people rooting for his success than before. Don’t believe it? Just check out the reaction to this Martin Kaymer tweet that immediately went viral this week.

12. Here’s another: I’ll admit that in this gig I don’t spend much time poring over police reports, but it was clear to me that the officers in Jupiter knew exactly what kind of spotlight they’d be under. Every “t” was crossed; every “i” was dotted; every little detail was included, down to the untied shoelace that led to Woods removing his shoes. Their thoroughness ensured nothing about the arrest would — or even could — later be questioned.

13. Another week, another player born in the mid-1990s growing up before our eyes. That’s not to suggest that Renato Paratore — born Dec. 14, 1996 — wasn’t already a talented player. He already owned four top-25 results on the European Tour this year. But with a victory at the Nordea Masters, he has elevated himself to a seat at the table among the best under-25s in the game, a list that starts with Jon Rahm and includes a whole bunch of really solid performers.

14. By the time you’re reading this, there will be a new No. 1 in women’s golf. Ariya Jutanugarn deservedly takes over the title, but her over/under on maintaining the position might only be one week, as So Yeon Ryu is on her heels. That might sound pessimistic, but at least it’s more realistic than past predictions. When Lydia Ko first took over the No. 1 spot more than two years ago, some had assumed she’d hold it for the next decade. Just another reminder that form is often fleeting, even for the game’s best players.

15. I.K. Kim won the ShopRite LPGA Classic on Sunday. Just in case you were still wavering on whether to root for a player who once lost a major championship by missing a 12-inch putt, then handled the aftermath with grace and dignity, here’s a little more to help your decision. Her Twitter handle is @SWEET_IKKIM and her bio reads as follows: “I believe in great sportsmanship, giving back, compassion for others and inspiring others to be their best.” Sold yet?

16. It used to be that college golf was just a niche of a niche of a niche (of a niche?), but a third consecutive year of national television coverage has helped it become a little more mainstream. Oklahoma and Arizona State won the men’s and women’s titles, respectively, with Braden Thornberry (Ole Miss) and Monica Vaughn (ASU) taking the individual crowns. There wasn’t just drama and emotion in those final rounds; there was fan interest, too. That’s important.

17. Wesley Bryan checked out Erin Hills last week and posted this video of him walking just a few paces from the fairway and dropping his ball into some nasty fescue. There’s little doubt the U.S. Open venue will be lush and juicy outside the fairways next week, but let me remind you that rough is often longer at tournament sites a few weeks beforehand, then mowed down during tourney week to the length best suited for the event. We’ll soon find out whether the rough Bryan showed off is still as thick for the upcoming festivities.

18. This was the first time in years that I didn’t cover the Memorial Tournament from site. I missed seeing Jack Nicklaus holding court all around the golf course. And I really missed those milk shakes.



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