Phil Mickelson electrified the massive galleries and anybody watching on television as he shot 60-65-64-67 for a total of 28-under-par 256 to win the Waste Management Phoenix Open. It’s amazing that the 42-year-old has never reached the number one ranking in the world, while lesser although obviously accomplished players such as Luke Donald, Lee Westwood, and Martin Kaymer have gotten there. Mickelson has won 41 PGA Tour events. Tiger Woods, the number one reason why Mickelson hasn’t gotten to number one, has 75 PGA Tour wins. Mickelson will never get near Woods’s total, but he’s said he’d like to reach 50 before he calls it a career. So Mickelson won last week, while Woods won the Farmers Insurance Open in La Jolla, Calif., the week before. Then there’s Rory McIlroy, who won the 2011 U.S. Open championship by eight shots and the 2012 PGA Championship by the same amount. He’s the number-one ranked player in the world. Woods is second, while Mickelson’s win moved him from 22nd to 10th. The season is shaping up nicely as it moves toward the Masters in April. Maybe McIlroy, Woods, and Mickelson will duel it out in a major or two this year. Well, three people can’t duel, but you get the picture.
Canadians are off to a fairly decent start. David Hearn shot three low rounds at the Waste Management, and one meh round. He opened with 67-65 and then on Saturday, moving day, Hearn went backwards with 73 while most of the rest of the field was going low at the TPC Scottsdale. The 33-year-old did finish well, shooting 65 on Sunday. He won just over $87,000 to advance his earnings for the season to $117,373. Hearn is 74th on the money list.
Meanwhile, Brad Fritsch, Graham DeLaet, Stephen Ames, and Mike Weir missed the cut in Phoenix. Still, they are off to promising starts. Fritsch, a 35-year-old PGA Tour rookie, has made $184,200 in four starts. He’s made three of four cuts and tied for ninth at the Farmers Insurance Open, where he won $146,400; he’s 43rd on the money list. DeLaet tied for ninth there as well. He’s 54th with $157,824, and has made two of four cuts. Ames missed the cut in Phoenix and at the Humana Challenge in La Quinta, Calif., the week before. But the 48-year-old posted a T-20 and a T-37 in his first two tournaments. He’s won $83,067 and is 91st on the money list.
As for Mike Weir, he’s made the cut in one of four tournaments this year. But he’s made some progress as he tries to drill his way out of a deep hole and find some confidence. Weir, 42, has played 11 rounds and posted five scores in the 60s, and he did make that one cut at the Farmers Insurance Open, where he tied for 68th. It was the first cut he’s made in 19 tournaments, so that was a positive step. Weir and Fritsch are the only Canadians playing this week’s AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. Weir has quite a record at the AT&T, with five top-five finishes. He was second in 2005 and 2009, T-3 in 2003, T-4 in 2004, and T-3 in 2006. Weir is approaching the 10th anniversary of his 2003 Masters win. Get set for many looks back at his win there. A half-hour documentary to be shown on Canadian television about his victory is also in the works, and could be green-lighted as early as today.
The USGA just concluded its annual meeting in San Diego. Its new president Glen Nager and its executive director Mike Davis took on slow play, which has become a big problem in golf. It’s hardly a new problem, though. The game has gotten slower and slower, which is not exactly helpful during a time when people have less free time on their hands. The USGA announced new pace of play initiatives and will also study the problem. I haven’t done any studies, but my experience tells me that it doesn’t help when players of all handicap levels feel they need to have exact yardages for every shot. They consult their rangefinders — a minute here and a minute there add up during a round. They walk off chip shots because they read some golf guru who said that a shot of, oh, 22 yards requires a backswing of just so long while a shot of, oh, 17 yards, requires a backswing that much shorter. Maybe it produces lower scores, but it’s certain that it produces longer rounds. They ride in carts and each player in a cart waits there for the other to play before cruising over to his ball. They are rarely ready to play ready golf. They examine putts from all sides, but only when it’s their turn to putt. They play what the British call card and pencil golf, where they have to finish every hole and post a score. Why not play more match play and stuff the card and pencil? The USGA plans to encourage golfers to play more Stableford competitions and more match play and more alternate shot, or foursomes, golf. Good luck. We live in a society where numbers matter so much. Hey, what did the Dow do today? How long did it take you to drive downtown? And so on. Good luck to the USGA. Here’s how to play faster: Decide you’re going to play faster and get on with it. Please.
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Lorne Rubenstein has written a golf column for The Globe and Mail since 1980. He has played golf since the early 1960s and was the Royal Canadian Golf Association’s first curator of its museum and library at the Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ontario and the first editor of Score, Canada’s Golf Magazine, where he continues to write a column and features. He has won four first-place awards from the Golf Writers Association of America, one National Magazine Award in Canada, and he won the award for the best feature in 2009 from the Golf Journalists Association of Canada. Lorne has written 12 books, including Mike Weir: The Road to the Masters (2003); A Disorderly Compendium of Golf, with Jeff Neuman (2006); This Round’s on Me (2009); and the latest Moe & Me: Encounters with Moe Norman, Golf’s Mysterious Genius (2012). He is a member of the Ontario Golf Hall of Fame and the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame. Lorne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org . You can now follow him on Twitter @lornerubenstein