Mickelson has reason for optimism after 2016 debut

By Garry Smits
Published on

Maybe Phil Mickelson has something left in the tank, less than five months before his 46th birthday.

The World Golf Hall of Fame member and five-time major champion tied for third last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge in La Quinta, Calif,, shooting 21-under par to finish four shots out of the playoff involving winner Jason Dufner and David Lingmerth of Ponte Vedra Beach. It was Mickelson's first top-10 finish since a tie for third last June in the FedEx St. Jude Open and his lowest 72-hole score since he won the 2013 Waste Management Open at 28 under.

He even managed to set two career milestones in the process.

Mickelson played the last 40 holes without a bogey, marking the first time as a pro that he negotiated the final two rounds of a tournament without a blemish on the scorecard. He had four hole-outs from off the green, the most in his career in a stroke-play event.

His 2016 debut was met with much curiosity because it was the first tournament since Mickelson parted ways with longtime instructor Butch Harmon and started working with Andrew Getson.

Mickelson said the two have been primarily working on his swing plane (which Mickelson said had gotten too far inside on the backswing and too steep on the downswing). He said with a better swing plane, he's not using his hands to square the clubface at impact.

"I was concerned, 'Is it going to come back?' and 'How long is it going to take,'" Mickelson told after his final-round 68. "I got a pretty good glimpse that my game's on the right path. I'm back on plane, and the touch should start to come back."

Three to a tower

In hiring Paul Azinger (as was widely speculated) as its lead golf analyst, Fox Sports also announced that there would be three voices in the 18th hole tower: Azinger, Brad Faxon and host Joe Buck.

The other networks get by with two: Dan Hicks and Johnny Miller at NBC and Jim Nantz and Nick Faldo at CBS.

Azinger, who replaces Greg Norman, had been the lead analyst for ABC's coverage of the Open Championship. He won 12 times on the PGA Tour, highlighted by the 1993 PGA, and was the PGA Tour player of the year in 1987.

Azinger also worked on early-round coverage of the U.S. Open and the Masters for ESPN. He is scheduled to work the U.S. Open Championship at the Oakmont (Pa.) Country Club; the U.S. Women's Open at Cordevalle in San Martin, Calif.; the U.S. Senior Open at Scioto Country Club in Columbus, Ohio; and the U.S. Amateur at Oakland Hills Country Club in Detroit.

Cauley comeback

Bud Cauley of Jacksonville showed flashes of the game last week at the CareerBuilders Challenge that got him on the PGA Tour through sponsor invitations in 2011.

Cauley's 17-under 271 earned a tie for 14th, his best finish on the Tour since a tie for fourth at the Greenbrier in 2014. It was his lowest 72-hole score since a 19-under to finish fourth at the 2012 TrueSouth Classic.

After an opening 72, Cauley shot 65-66 in the middle rounds and 68 in the final round. He played his last 31 holes without a bogey, and during the third round at the PGA West Nicklaus Course, Cauley birdied eight of his last 13 holes and shot 6-under 30 on the back nine.

Cauley underwent shoulder surgery after winning the 2014 Hotel Fitness Championship, the first Tour Finals event. He was unable to play until last summer and missed the cut or withdrew in six of seven starts.

Cauley missed both cuts in fall PGA Tour starts at the Sanderson Farms Classic and the RSM Classic.

Wie swims with the sharks

LPGA star Michelle Wie doesn't just lay on the beach during an offseason.

One of her activities down the down time was in December when she joined friends for a supervised dive with sharks, off the coast of Oahu.

Wie went at the urging of a friend. Before that, she got assurances the swimmers would be in some kind of cage ... sort of.

"I was like, 'It's in a cage, right?'" Wie told this week at the site of the LPGA's opening event this week, the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic. "She was like, 'Yeah, yeah, I'm sure it is.' I'm like, 'You didn't call?' So, we get there, and the [diving guides said] ... 'There's no need for a cage."

Wie went ahead with it, and the group found itself swimming among three dozen or so sharks, 3 miles off the coast.

"I got in the water, and it was amazing," she said. "It was so peaceful. They were just swimming around you. They're huge. It was awesome."

One bit of advice she was given: keep her arms and legs close to her body.

Wie said she didn't tell her management team until later.

"I didn't really tell them that until afterwards," Wie said. "I was like, 'Yeah, so I went shark diving, all my limbs are still here.' "


The LPGA Tour is offering a record total purse of more than $63 million for 34 events. The Tour will hold events in 14 countries. ... Former Florida and South Carolina football coach Steve Spurrier will play in the pro-am of the LPGA's Coates Championship next week at Golden Ocala. ... The Tour opens this week with the Panama Claro Championship, the first of six international events in the first three months of the season. The Tour will play twice in Colombia and in Mexico and Brazil. The only U.S. event during that span is the Chitimacha Louisiana Open in Broussard, La., March 17-20. ... Davis Love III of St. Simons Island, led the field in driving distance (310.5) and tied for second in greens in regulation (.815) in last week's PGA Tour Champions opener, the Mitsubishi Championship. Love's solo third, three shots behind winner Duffy Waldorf, was Love's best finish in five Champions starts. 

This article was written by Garry Smits from The Florida Times-Union and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.