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Phil Mickelson takes home record fifth title

2019 Pebble Beach Pro-Am leaderboard, grades: Phil Mickelson takes home record fifth title

Source: CBS Sports
By 

Phil Mickelson touched off the 2019 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am on Monday, a record-tying fifth of his career, the same way he sewed it up late on Sunday. Lefty hit a nasty knockdown shot from 175 yards on the iconic par-5 18th at Pebble to 6 feet and poured that home for birdie — a final round 65 and the 44th win of his incredible PGA Tour career.

The bogey-free 65 was the round of the day, and it came at the perfect time for Mickelson, who trailed playing partner Paul Casey by three strokes heading into Round 4. Casey played nicely in the final round, which spanned two days because of a hail storm on Sunday, but his 71 couldn’t keep pace with the way Mickelson commanded his short irons and wedges over the final 18 holes. Lefty easily cleared him by three at 19-under 268.

“It’s been a very special week,” Mickelson told Peter Kostis of CBS Sports. “This is a special place for me. … To have my pro career start here and to have this victory means a lot.”

Mickelson finished first in the field on his approach shots and T2 in proximity to the hole. If you saw the way he struck the ball in Round 4, it’s easy to see why.

Mickelson and Casey were the only ones on the course on Monday as everyone else finished up on Sunday in the dark. Mickelson also wanted to try and get home on Sunday, but Casey called it on the 16th green, and Lefty said he was grateful for that even if he seemed perturbed in the moment. It’s very on brand for Mickelson to thank his opponent for setting up a win for him.

“He really protected both of us,” Mickelson said. “The greens were beat up. We had a chance today to come out on fresher greens, better weather, and I was really appreciative of that.”

With the 44th win of his career, Mickelson becomes just the fourth player to win PGA Tour events 28 or more years apart. He also inches closer to Walter Hagen’s mark of 45 PGA Tour wins and a potential tie for eighth all time. Billy Casper is seventh at 51. The fifth Pebble victory ties Mark O’Meara for the all-time record at that event.

We should ignore the “What if I’d told you ‘Phil Mickelson wins at Pebble after a long wait’ would be a headline at the start of the calendar year” storyline for now and obvious U.S. Open implications. Mickelson said after the round that this win has no bearing on what happens at the U.S. Open in June, likely because this will not be the same Pebble Beach after the USGA gets its hands on it.

Still, a victory for Mickelson at age 48 — and nearly two victories in his first three starts of 2019! — is remarkable. As the PGA Tour skews younger and Mickelson nears 50, it becomes more improbable for him to keep up. And yet not only is he keeping up, he’s thriving, he’s winning. He’s dropping filthy 65s in all manner of weather with a Ryder Cup participant leading him and young bucks like Si Woo Kim and Jason Day making runs at him. Mickelson, unlike Pebble Beach, is not timeless, but you may have been fooled if you watched him play golf on Sunday and Monday. Grade: A+

Here are the rest of our grades for the 2019 Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

Jason Day (T4): Ignore the Sunday bank robber look and instead focus on another successful trip to Pebble Beach for the former major winner. He did the lion’s share of his damage on Thursday with a 65 at Monterey Peninsula, but he backed it up with an even-par 72 on the toughest scoring day (Saturday) and a tasty 68 during the final round (he finished on Sunday). Day pretty quietly hasn’t finished outside the top 25 anywhere since the Dell Technologies Championship during the FedEx Cup Playoffs last fall and should definitely be considered one of the early favorites for the Masters in April. Grade: A

Jordan Spieth (T45): After playing beautifully for the first two days, Spieth ejected hard on Saturday. He made just three bogeys over his first 48 holes, but then finished Saturday’s third round with two doubles and a bogey in the last six holes. He never recovered from that, made five more bogeys on Sunday and tumbled down the leaderboard with a 74-75 weekend on the Pebble Beach course. The issue for Spieth this week actually wasn’t the putter. He finished 60th (!) in strokes gained off the tee and could muster just three birdies in his final 31 holes of play on the week. Grade: C+

Dustin Johnson (T45): It may have been even uglier for Spieth’s playing partner, Dustin Johnson. After winning last week in Saudi Arabia, D.J. struggled late at a place where he’s won twice and been arguably the most consistent player over the last decade. Johnson’s week was less volatile than Spieth’s, but a 73-73 showing at Spyglass and Pebble on Friday and Saturday respectively left him way out of the mix for a third title here. It didn’t help that he played the non-par 5s in 3 over for the week. Grade: C+

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How to Improve Your Putting: 3 Tour Secrets

Source: GolfDigest
By Butch Harmon

My dad used to say you can always tell great putters because all their putts have that “going in” look. I love that phrase, and it makes sense when you watch players who can really putt. They give their full effort every time, and they never talk themselves out of a putt. Look at it this way, there are only two things that can happen—you make it, or you miss it—and I can tell you, the best putters only think about one.

There’s no reason you can’t improve your putting. It’s the simplest swing you make; there are no bunkers, no out-of-bounds, no rough; you’re on a perfectly smooth surface; and the target is right there. Still, most golfers have a negative attitude, which I never understand. All you have to do is read the break, aim the face and start the ball on line. And, most important, decide to be positive.

Let’s look at a few things I’ve learned from great putters I’ve worked with—and get you dropping more putts. — With Peter Morrice

Here’s a drill I’ve watched Phil do over the years to hit putts with great speed. He finds a hole on the practice green and sticks three tees in the ground, at 30, 40 and 50 feet out. His goal is to roll three putts in a row from each tee into an imaginary three-foot circle around the hole. He starts at 40 feet and putts from there until he gets three in a row. Then he goes to 30, then 50—going out of order like this means you can’t just get in a groove.

Distance control is the big thing on long putts. If you judge the speed right, you’ll almost always have a simple second putt. But if you judge it wrong, you might leave yourself 10 or 12 feet. On long putts, I like the stroke to be a little longer and slower, so you can put some hit on the ball. When most golfers try to hit it harder, they get quick and jabby, which usually causes a mis-hit. You want the putterhead to accelerate through the ball, so think long and smooth.

Phil’s drill is a great test. And don’t just practice from one angle.

If you start with downhill, right-to-left putts, next time go uphill, left to right. Any 50-foot space will do—even use a water bottle for the hole (above). You’ll quickly see a difference in your distance control.

‘This is Phil’s 30-40-50 drill. Use it to learn distance control, and you’ll stop three-putting.’

Sneds is a great putter for the average golfer to copy because he gets on with it. Once he knows what he wants to do with a putt, he doesn’t waste any time. Taking longer only ups your stress level and invites you to start doubting what you’re doing.

If you watch Brandt, you’ll see when he’s reading a putt from behind the ball, he’s often making little air strokes with the right hand. Then, when he steps in, he makes three or four short practice strokes, always looking at the hole. He’s fine-tuning his feel.

His stroke is more of a pop action than what we normally see on the PGA Tour. It has a quicker pace and very little follow-through. I putt like that, too, because it helps me hit the ball on the right line. That’s what good putting is all about.

The best lesson here is to keep your focus simple. As you read your putt, imagine a three- or four-inch trough from your ball to the hole. You want to roll your ball down that trough, and that means getting it started on line. So instead of staring at the ball, track your eyes down your intended line, especially the first foot or two (below). Then give it a good, firm rap down that line—just like Sneds.

Rickie has become very competent with shorter putts. He ranks fourth on tour from a range of four to eight feet, making 82 percent. The best thing he does to hole these is simple enough for any golfer to adopt: He lifts his putterhead off the ground right before he putts (below).

Let’s back up a minute and look at Rickie’s overall approach.

I like that he steps into these putts with the clear purpose of getting the putterface aimed precisely. He’s deliberate about that. In fact, he sets the face with only his right hand, and completes his grip when the face is perfect. Then he takes one look at the hole and raises the putterhead fractionally off the ground before he starts back.

I want you to try this for two reasons: First, it’ll help take the tension out of your hands and arms, and we all know that tension is a killer on these short ones. Second, it sets up a smooth, even backstroke with no risk of the club getting stuck on the grass. Very clever little move. And just like these other tips, it’ll help you putt like a pro.

 

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