Category Archives: Phil Mickelson

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Last Word on Golf 2019 U.S. Open Predictions

This week some of the Last Word on Golf’s writing team tackle our 2019 U.S. Open predictions. For more insight from each member of the Last Word on Golf panel make sure to follow them at their mentioned Twitter handle. Don’t forget to follow @LastWordOnGolf on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram and let us know your U.S. Open picks and predictions.
Favorite Underdog
Kyle Walton (@TheKCWalton)- Graeme McDowell (80 to 1)

The biggest underdog I’ve picked this season comes back to a familiar locale this week at the 2019 U.S. Open. Northern Ireland’s own Graeme Macdowell was the last man to win a U.S. Open at Pebble Beach back in 2010. Earlier this season the 39-year old found himself back in the winner’s circle at the Corales Puntacana Resort and Club Championship.

McDowell’s recent form has been on the upward trajectory as he finished tied for 29th at the PGA Championship and currently sits 5th on the PGA Tour in Strokes Gained: Putting (an essential stat with this week’s tricky poa annua greens). This past week at the RBC Canadian Open McDowell gained a momentous boost of confidence after sinking a clutch putt on the final hole to punch his ticket back home to Royal Portrush and The Open Championship just over a month away.

Josh Mullenix (@TheJMULL_)- Matt Kuchar (50 to 1)

Not entirely sure you can consider Kuch an underdog, but he certainly isn’t a favorite. Pebble Beach isn’t that long of a golf course. What comes at a premium is hitting fairways and accurate approach shots to these small, undulated greens. Kuchar does both of these things beautifully and his lack of power won’t hurt him on a golf course that is only going to play 7,075 yards.

He ranks inside the top-10 on the PGA Tour in both driving accuracy and strokes gained: approach the green. Apart from a missed cut at the Memorial, Kuchar hasn’t finished outside the top-12 since the Players in mid-March.
Biggest Name to Miss the Cut
Walton- Jon Rahm

Entering the U.S. Open, Spain’s Jon Rahm sits at a 28-to-1 favorite and in many cases is a top-10 consensus to perform. However, the often emotional (and sometimes volatile) Rahm is coming off two straight missed cuts, including at the PGA Championship.

Going up against a tricky USGA layout at Pebble Beach may prove too much to handle for the immensely talented 24-year old rising star. Thus far this season Rahm sits 110th in Strokes Gained: Around the Green, 72nd in Strokes Gained: Approach and 71st in Scrambling.

The narrowed fairways and troublesome misses could play equalizer to the accuracy and length off the tee. While he is more than capable of making the proper adjustments, Pebble Beach has a way of humbling even the game’s greatest competitors which could mean an early return home for Rahm from one of the most iconic courses in all of golf.

Mullenix- Phil Mickelson

I really want Phil to win this week and complete the grand slam, but I just don’t see it happening. Since Mickelson won the AT&T Pro-Am at Pebble Beach earlier this year, his best finish is a tie for 18th at Augusta, he’s missed four cuts in nine events, and only has two rounds in the 60s since the beginning of the Masters.

He is 208th on tour in driving accuracy and is 102nd in greens in regulation percentage. Those stats don’t add up to a player that is going to make the cut at the toughest test in golf. Mickelson has been far too inconsistent this season and he’ll miss the cut at the 2019 U.S. Open despite his successful history at Pebble Beach.
2019 U.S. Open Runner-Up
Walton- Brooks Koepka

It’s incredibly difficult to bet against the Major prowess of Brooks Koepka. Not much can be revealed that hasn’t already been hammered home this past week, and even this past year. Not even 30 yet and he is coming off a tie for second at this year’s Masters as well as a successful title defense at the PGA Championship.

Add in that Koepka is already the reigning back-to-back U.S. Open champion and the facts and figures make it nearly impossible to not make him the frontrunner on every poll. That being said, chalk this prediction more up to a gut reaction. The three-peat is one of the most difficult tasks to accomplishment in golf especially coming into a course like Pebble Beach.

I still believe Koepka will turn in a solid, contending performance this week but I just don’t see him winning his 5th Major, at least not yet.
Mullenix- Patrick Cantlay

Patrick Cantlay is playing the best golf of his career. A pair of T3’s at the RBC Heritage and the PGA Championship were followed by an incredible win at the Memorial including a Sunday 64. Eventually, Cantlay is going to get a major, but it won’t be this week. I just don’t have faith in him at majors after what happened to him on the back nine at Augusta.

He looked very uncomfortable and two bogeys in the final three holes took him out of the running quickly. Don’t be surprised to see him near the top of the leaderboard come Sunday, but he needs to be in contention at a major one more time before he actually gets it done.

2019 U.S. Open Champion
Walton- Rory McIlroy

Simply stated, Rory is on a roll. In 13 events played this season McIlroy has finished top-10 in 10 of those tournaments. Six of those were top-5 performances including two victories. Just last week he took home the RBC Canadian Open by a staggering seven strokes following a final round of 61 (which could’ve been a 59) to finish with a tournament total of 22-under par.

Speaking to his stats he currently sits first in Strokes Gained: Total, Off the Tee and Tee to Green as well as the best on tour average for eagles made. Additionally, since 2014 McIlroy currently sits in the top three performers on poa annua greens at 2.93 strokes gained total. (behind Dustin Johnson and Jason Day)

The Northern Ireland native knows what it takes to battle against heavy hitters like Tiger Woods, Dustin Johnson, and Brooks Koepka. This week, with momentum on his side and his confidence at an all-time high, McIlroy is undoubtedly a front runner to win his second U.S. Open and his 5th major championship.
Mullenix- Dustin Johnson

Nine years is a long time for demons to hang around and DJ’s win at Oakmont in 2016 effectively exorcised the demons from his collapse at the 2010 U.S. Open. DJ has a great track record at Pebble including back-to-back wins at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in 2009-10.

While it isn’t the same course presented for a U.S. Open that players find in February, history has shown that four of the five U.S. Open winners at Pebble Beach also won the Pro-Am at some point. Over his last 12 rounds, Johnson has 10 rounds in the 60s including four rounds of 69 or better at the PGA Championship where he finished in solo second. DJ gets it done at Pebble and wins his second major championship.

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Mickelson eyes Career Grand Slam at Pebble Beach

As father time ticks away, this week’s U.S. Open from Pebble Beach could be the last real opportunity for five-time major champion Phil Mickelson to complete the coveted grand slam of golf. The four-time All-American tees it up, alongside 155 other top players in the world, in his home state of California this Thursday.

Three times in his 27-year professional career the legend known as ‘Lefty’ has donned the green jacket as Masters Champion (2004, 2006, 2010). Add a PGA Championship in 2005 and The Open Championship in 2013 and just one more piece of the puzzle remains. Placing that last piece of the puzzle is easier said than done with a hard-hitting group of top contenders including Tiger Woods, Brooks Koepka and Rory McIlroy surrounding you.
Mickelson’s U.S. Open History
In 27 starts at the U.S. Open, Mickelson has yet to take home the trophy despite making the cut a remarkable 89-percent of the time (24 of 27 made cuts). Almost inconceivably, he has finished in the top-10 on 10 separate occasions. Six of those top-10 finishes saw Mickelson fall just short of the title in the runner-up position.

Throughout his career, Mickelson has played a U.S. Open at Pebble Beach three different years. Starting in 1992 with a missed cut, he has improved every outing since. In 2000 he found himself in a tie for 16th while 2010 ‘Lefty’ took charge with a tie for 4th.

With six-second place finishes including Pinehurst (1999), Bethpage Black (2002, 2009), Shinnecock (2004), Winged Foot (2006) and Merion (2013), Mickelson has been on the cusp but has never been able to make that final leap into the winner’s circle.

Winged Foot Golf Club’s West Course, the site of Mickelson’s 2006 runner-up finish, will be the host site next year for the 2020 U.S. Open. Despite his past success, the 14-year difference on Mickelson’s abilities may put the 7,264-yard length of Winged Foot out of reach for what will be a 50-year old Phil Mickelson.

Despite being 17th in driving distance this season, Mickelson still comes in 78th in strokes gained tee-to-green and 100th in strokes gained off-the-tee. While this year’s U.S. Open may not be a bomber’s paradise, keeping steady off the tee is an essential aspect for any victor to have in his bag. Luckily for Phil, he more than knows his way around the sprawling California oasis known as Pebble Beach.
Familiarity factor at Pebble Beach
An illustrious career has yielded Mickelson 44 PGA Tour victories. Five of which have come at none other than Pebble Beach Golf Links. While certainly a tale of two courses from the time-honored Pebble Beach Pro-Am to the USGA’s treacherous U.S. Open set up, the familiarity factor cannot be underestimated.

Four of his five Pebble Beach Pro-Am victories have come by a margin of two strokes or greater. Just this past February, Mickelson recorded his latest PGA Tour victory at this very course. With a 7-under final round of 65, the 12-time Ryder Cup participant bested England’s Paul Casey by three strokes.

Suffice to say Mickelson has plenty of fans cheering him on come Sunday, which ironically enough will be his 49th birthday. One such fan is the widely known, and respected, Jim Nantz who predicted Mickelson to win this year’s U.S. Open.

Back in January when he spoke with Golf Channel, Nantz stated “I think [Phil]’s gonna win at Pebble… I want to put that on the record right now. I think Phil is going to win the U.S. Open.”  With the storyline seemingly writing itself, fast forward nearly six months and Mickelson is hitting a hole-in-one at Nantz’s backyard replica of Pebble Beach’s par-3 7th hole.

Course history, celebrity endorsements, and backyard aces aside, while Mickelson may not be the best off the tee his short game precision is well documented. The shorter the club the better for ‘Lefty’ and with the reports of thick rough, small greens, and pinpoint placement with your wedges a near unanimous necessity, Mickelson already has a leg up on the competition.
The Last Word
At 49-years young by weeks end, Mickelson will rely on his precision, short game success, and valuable history at Pebble Beach to become the sixth golfer to complete the career grand slam in what may be Lefty’s best opportunity remaining to check off one more legendary feat in an already storied career.

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Five Thoughts Heading into Ryder Cup Four Ball Matches

On the eve of the start of the Ryder Cup, Team USA and Europe’s selections for the morning four-ball matches were revealed. Captains Furyk and Bjorn made the vital selections that will pave the way for their teams to have success in the Ryder Cup. Here are the morning four-ball matches that will open the Ryder Cup:

Match 1: Brooks Koepka-Tony Finau vs. Justin Rose-Jon Rahm

Match 2: Rickie Fowler-Dustin Johnson vs. Rory McIlroy-Thorbjorn Olesen

Match 3: Jordan Spieth-Justin Thomas vs. Tyrell Hatton-Paul Casey

Match 4: Tiger Woods-Patrick Reed vs. Francesco Molinari-Tommy Fleetwood

With the golfers set for both squads, here are my five initial thoughts heading into the Ryder Cup Friday Four-Ball matches.
1) Both Europe and USA Lead with Strength
It is clear that both Europe and USA want to get off on the right footing when it comes to who they put into the Four-Ball matches. For the Americans, they included golfers who come into the Ryder Cup with a ton of momentum. Tiger Woods is arriving at this competition, fresh off winning the TOUR Championship. Brooks Koepka has won two major championships this year.

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For the Europeans, who can argue the success Justin Rose has had this year. FedEx Cup Champion. World Number One. Oh, and he has an above .500 record in the Ryder Cup. Rory McIlroy is the other leader for the Europeans, coming into the Ryder Cup with a 9-6-4 career record. Putting the squad’s two top golfers in the first two matches sends a message that Europe wants to get the early lead and set the tone early in this competition.
2) Older Veterans Are Sitting
In the past, normally it would be the older veterans to start for the squads, to galvanize the respective teams. But in this Ryder Cup, both the Americans and Europeans are sitting their older players for future sessions. The USA is sitting Phil Mickelson, playing in his 12th Ryder Cup. Europe is resting Sergio Garcia and Ian Poulter, both of whom have played pivotal roles in victorious European Ryder Cup teams in the past.

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But can you blame Captains Furyk and Bjorn for their decisions? Since being selected as a Captain’s Pick, Phil Mickelson has been at the bottom of the leaderboards at the BMW and TOUR Championships. Sergio Garcia has not made the cut of a major championship since he won The Masters back in 2017. Ultimately, these players will have to compete at least once in the Ryder Cup. Most likely, some of them may play in the Foursomes session on Friday. But giving rest to the older players is important, as the Captains would like to keep them physically fit and not tired before the grueling Singles Sunday.
3) Rookies Get Golden Opportunity
It is clear that Captains Furyk and Bjorn aren’t shying away from putting their rookies in the hot seat early on in the Ryder Cup. Six rookies combined will be starting in the Friday morning Four-Ball session; Tony Finau and Justin Thomas for the Americans and Jon Rahm, Thorbjorn Olesen, Tyrell Hatton and Tommy Fleetwood for the Europeans.

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“Players stand up and they are counted for what they do in the greatest events in the world. But legends are made in this event,” Bjorn said. “That is where the public comes around them and can do so much for their careers. It’s an opportunity to go out there and be the best that you can be on a grand stage.”

Thomas Bjorn is risking more with starting four rookies compared to Furyk’s two. Not to take away anything from Tony Finau or Justin Thomas but those two have been in the mix in major championships (Thomas 2017 PGA Championship winner) and relish those high-pressure moments. For Bjorn, he will roll the dice with Rahm, Olesen, Hatton, and Fleetwood. These four have shown promising golf this year, but will it shine through in front of the rowdy home crowd? The Danish captain believes they have what it takes to seize the moment.

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“There are the obvious guys out there, in the sense that they are players you would all expect to see, and then there’s a new guy in every group,” Bjorn said.

“They have been just itching to go, especially Thorbjorn, Jon and Tyrrell. I think Tommy is a different guy, in the way that he’s won [the 2017 France Open] around here, and he’s been real quality for the last couple of years.”
4) Best Morning Match?
While it will be fantastic to see the big hitters of Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy going toe-to-toe or the lifelong friendship of Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas becoming Ryder Cup partners, the best morning match will be the last one. Tiger Woods and Patrick Reed, the Big Cat and Captain America taking on Francesco Molinari and Tommy Fleetwood, the Italian Stallion and the English Rookie.

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Patrick Reed’s Ryder Cup record is sensational. 6-1-2 and most famous for exuding that American pride in defeating Rory McIlroy at the 2016 Ryder Cup. Despite Tiger Woods’ underwhelming Ryder Cup record (13-17-3), he is coming into the Ryder Cup on a high after winning his 80th PGA Tour victory. The partnership of Woods and Reed can fuel and ignite the fire within each other, showcasing that emotion and enthusiasm we are used to seeing at the Ryder Cup.

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Francesco Molinari arrives in Paris playing the best golf of his career. Winner of the BMW PGA Championship and the Open Championship, Molinari utilized his steady ball striking tee to green to capture these victories. This includes deflecting a Tiger Woods final round charge at Carnoustie to hoist the Claret Jug.

Molinari will be paired with Tommy Fleetwood, a Ryder Cup rookie who has played brilliantly this season. From shooting a 64 in the final round of the U.S. Open to winning the 2017 French Open at Le Golf National, Fleetwood’s coolness under pressure will be a critical asset to possess in this Ryder Cup match.
5) Who Wins Each Match?
These four matches have the potential to produce terrific drama to open the Ryder Cup. As both the USA and Europe teams know, getting off to a strong start is crucial. When a player arriving to the first tee at the Ryder Cup, there is no messing around. Just ask Rory McIlroy, who vividly remembers his experience of coming to the first tee in his inaugural Ryder Cup appearance.

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“I still thought it was this team event that really doesn’t matter in the big scheme of things,” McIlroy said. “I was more concerned about individual titles and all that. Then I got to the first tee and I realized the magnitude of it all. It just hits you. You try and put your ball on that tee and it takes you a couple times to get it to settle on there.”
With that said, here are my predictions for the opening four matches.

Match 1: Brooks Koepka-Tony Finau vs. Justin Rose-Jon Rahm (Europe)

Match 2: Rickie Fowler-Dustin Johnson vs. Rory McIlroy-Thorbjorn Olesen (USA)

Match 3: Jordan Spieth-Justin Thomas vs. Tyrell Hatton-Paul Casey (USA)

Match 4: Tiger Woods-Patrick Reed vs. Francesco Molinari-Tommy Fleetwood (Half)

 

Score After Friday Morning Session: USA 2.5 – Europe 1.5

 

 

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