Notebook: Phil Mickelson still loving team events, and proving valuable
By Doug Ferguson
NAPA, Calif. (AP) – Phil Mickelson wasn't kidding when he said how much he enjoyed the team events.
He sat out Saturday morning and was on the course early despite the threat of rain. Standing on the tee at the par-3 third hole, Lefty made sure every American player who walked by rubbed his belly for good luck.
On the golf course, he turned in an unbeaten record (3-0-1) for the third time in the Presidents Cup. He also went 4-0-1 at Harding Park in 2009 and 3-0-2 at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in 2005.
At the start of the week, Mickelson bit his tongue when asked if he wondered how many more times he would play in a Presidents Cup or Ryder Cup. This was his 21st consecutive team.
"Not yet," he said. "I'm excited about the way the last few months have gone, which makes me very excited for the coming year and coming years."
When the reporter mentioned it was a negative question, Mickelson seamlessly interrupted by saying, "with a very positive answer."
Mickelson headed home for what amounts to a three-month break before starting out in 2016. He is No. 5 in the Ryder Cup standings, mainly on the strength of his runner-up finish at the Masters, though the team effectively is decided by 2016 performances.
"I'm certainly looking forward to next year's Ryder Cup, as well, and I hope that I don't put the captain in a position where he has to pick me this time," Mickelson said. "I hope that I will be able to make it on my own."
SPIETH'S PUTTING: According to the PGA Tour, Jordan Spieth led six putting categories (some of them are repetitive), including the tradition putts per round and overall putts. But one statistic remains hard to believe.
Spieth made 27 percent of his putts between 15 feet and 25 feet.
That's the highest percent since the tour began using lasers for its ShotLink scoring system.
SAWGRASS CHANGE?: PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said it might not be long before The Players Championship has a reachable par 4 – the 12th hole.
But it wouldn't be a matter of just playing from a forward tee.
"If we move the tee up, we probably have more guys taking a shot at it," Finchem said. "What we want is a combination of it being risk-reward and the way it's structured is it entices you to take a shot at it. If there's no downside to it, that raises the question, `Do you really want to spend the energy?'"
TOUGH TO WIN: Jordan Spieth and Jason Day each won five times last year, and combined to take three of the four majors.
But there was more to the 2014-15 season that showed why it was tougher than ever.
Throw out the opposite-field events, seven players won 17 times on the PGA Tour at a time when they were in the top 10 in the world ranking – Spieth and Day five times each, Rory McIlroy and Bubba Watson twice, once each for Jim Furyk, Justin Rose and Rickie Fowler.
DIVOTS: The LPGA Tour picked up some encouraging news in recent weeks when it announced that Volunteers of America has signed a three-year extension of its tournament in North Texas, and the final round of its season-ending CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, Florida, will be televised on network TV (ABC Sports). ... Australia Golf and the New South Wales government signed a new deal that will keep the Australian Open in Sydney for the next eight years. Jordan Spieth defends his title Nov. 26-29 at The Australian Golf Club. ... Because of his commitments in Europe and Asia, Anirban Lahiri likely won't make his PGA Tour member debut on the mainland until the CareerBuilder Challenge. "I think it used to be called the Humana," he said. At that point, a few more experienced reporters filled him in on the Bob Hope Classic.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Freddie Jacobson did not have a three-putt green since the 17th hole of the second round of the Humana Challenge.
FINAL WORD I: "My job this week is to get Chris Kirk excited." – Fred Couples, assistant captain at the Presidents Cup.
FINAL WORD II: "That was for everybody who has never seen me fist-pump before." – Chris Kirk on his 15-foot birdie putt on the final hole at the Presidents Cup.
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