Phil Mickelson, Paul Casey best year so far without winning
NAPA, Calif. (AP) — Phil Mickelson has now gone three consecutive PGA Tour seasons without a victory, his last title coming at the 2013 British Open at Muirfield. He still has a chance to win before the end of the calendar year by playing his final event this week at the Safeway Open.
That's not to suggest it's been a bad year.
Mickelson has accrued the most world ranking points of anyone who has yet to win around the world this year. He was a runner-up at Pebble Beach and the St. Jude Classic, though most of his points came from his runner-up finish at the British Open. Mickelson has 196.03 points this year.
Paul Casey is next on the list at 186.19 points. The bulk of those came from consecutive runner-up finishes in the Deutsche Bank Championship and BMW Championship during the FedEx Cup playoffs. Casey has gone just more than two years since his last victory in the KLM Open.
He was followed by Matt Kuchar (184.91 points), Rafa Cabrera Bello (174.97) and Kevin Chappell (168.34).
Casey earned just under $3.9 million this year and plans to play the next three events before taking the rest of the year off, meaning he will sit out the Hero World Challenge (free holiday money) in the Bahamas.
It was aggravating to play well enough to win during the FedEx Cup playoffs but lose to great finishes by Rory McIlroy at the TPC Boston and by Dustin Johnson at Crooked Stick. Much like Mickelson, however, Casey isn't about to consider it a bad year just because he doesn't have a trophy to show for it yet.
Would he rather contend consistently or just have one week where he sneaks out a victory?
"I would rather take the latter, what I've been doing recently," Casey said. "Although the win would be nice, I think deep down it's more satisfying and there's more gratification playing the golf I've played recently and not getting a win than sneaking one."
The wraparound schedule on the PGA Tour has altered one measure of record keeping.
Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus each won at least one tournament in their first 17 years on the PGA Tour. Tiger Woods looked as though he would match or surpass that when he won in each of his 14 years, but that was until he was blanked in 2010, a year after his personal life fell apart.
PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem introduced Dustin Johnson as the player of the year on Tuesday by saying Johnson has won at least once in nine consecutive seasons dating to his rookie year. Palmer, Nicklaus and Woods are the only other players since 1950 to do that.
But there's one problem.
Johnson didn't win in 2014. He took his six-month break in August and missed the rest of the year. Johnson won the HSBC Champions in November 2013 when it was part of the 2013-14 season. And then he next won the Cadillac Championship at Doral in March 2015 as part of the next season (2014-15).
It's no less impressive. But it's not an apples-to-apples comparison with Palmer, Nicklaus and Woods.
Paul Casey had two weeks off following the Tour Championship, enough time to ride bikes in Arizona, drink a little wine and test new equipment. Casey has been with Nike for 12 years, and the company announced it was getting out of the club business.
He referred to it as "scratching the surface."
"For certain parts of the bag, I think it will be a speedy process," Casey said.
He said he was testing new drivers last week, and he also mentioned work on his putting. Casey said those would be relatively easy adjustments if it doesn't require changes to the shaft, for example. He said changing the irons or the golf ball could be a longer process.
"The general feeling with all of us is we're still saddened by it and none of us really want to change anything," Casey said. "But it's inevitable that we will at some stage because as everything evolves, there will be newer stuff from other manufacturers that might be advantageous to lean toward and use."
One year after In Gee Chun won the U.S. Women's Open, the South Korean has clinched the points-based award as LPGA Tour rookie of the year.
Chun, who captured her second major this year at the Evian Championship, has a 778-point lead over Megan Khang. If it stands over the final six tournaments, it would be the third-largest margin in the rookie race behind Karrie Webb in 1996 and Se Ri Pak in 1998.
"To play on the LPGA with all the top players in the world has been a dream of mine that I have been working toward, and in 2016 it came true," Chun said. "One of my goals at the start of the year was to try and win this award, so to actually achieve it is a tremendous honor."
The award is named after the late Louis Suggs.
Chun was not a member of the LPGA Tour when she won the Women's Open last year. As an LPGA rookie, she has nine top 10s besides the Evian, and she has risen to No. 3 in the world ranking. She is No. 4 on the LPGA Tour money list with just over $1.4 million.
Justin Rose's gold medal at the Olympics is even more gratifying considering the level of his health.
Rose sat out a month between The Players Championship and the U.S. Open because of a herniated disc. He didn't crack the top 20 in his next four events until showing up in Rio and holding off Henrik Stenson to win the gold.
And after playing three straight weeks in the FedEx Cup playoffs, and then going 2-3-0 in the Ryder Cup, he's taking another break to rest his back.
Rose said he is taking the next eight weeks off to rest and recovery. He said the crammed schedule didn't allow time to fully recover. That means missing the British Masters this week, along with the final stretch of the Race to Dubai.
"At this point in my career, it is important to invest in my body," Rose said. "And this time off is crucial for me to return to peak performance."
Ian Poulter is playing under a major medical extension on the PGA Tour from having missed the last four months with a foot injury. He will have 10 starts to earn 218 FedEx Cup points or about $348,000 to keep full status the rest of the year. Poulter is playing this week in the Macau Open, his first time back since he missed the cut at Colonial. ... Jerry Tarde, editor-in-chief of Golf Digest, is the Memorial Golf Journalism honoree for 2017. ... Phil Mickelson has joined The Greenbrier as a "tour ambassador." Mickelson plans to buy a home at the West Virginia resort and join the Greenbrier Sporting Club. ... The Symetra Tour is moving its Tour Championship from Daytona Beach, Florida to Alaqua Country Club in Longwood, Florida, because of the damage left behind and cleanup required from Hurricane Matthew. The top 10 on the money list earn LPGA Tour cards. Clariss Guce is No. 10 with a $995 advantage over Laura Gonzalez Escallon at No. 11.
STAT OF THE WEEK
Since the wraparound season began, all three winners of the season-opening PGA Tour event have made it to the Tour Championship.
"It's hard being Tiger Woods. It really is. Especially if he can't back it up with the semblance of the old Tiger Woods." — Johnny Miller.