The Loop

Phil Mickelson’s secret to aging well, Miss America makes the cut, and Nick Faldo mocks Sergio Garcia

February 12, 2019

Welcome to another edition of The Grind, where we are seriously thinking about taking up coffee. Just look at what it’s doing for Phil Mickelson. As he approaches 50, the dude’s clubhead speed is as fast as it's ever been. And apparently, his vision has improved to the point he can play golf in the dark. After Tiger Woods’ resurgence last year, I was really contemplating back fusion surgery to help with my transition to being an aging golfer, but making coffee seems a lot easier

On second thought, that sounds like a lot of effort. Maybe getting fused is still the way to go. . . In any event, Phil’s age-defying performance at Pebble Beach highlighted a wild week of golf. Let’s brew a cup of hot cocoa instead and talk about it.


Phil Mickelson: Seriously, this guy is amazing. Mickelson took apart Pebble Beach over the final two days with a dazzling display of iron play. Mickelson gained nearly seven shots on the field in strokes gained approach-the-green in those two rounds alone, and his Sunday 65 could have easily been better if he converted a few more good birdie looks.


Harry How/Getty Images

With his fifth win at Pebble Beach, Mickelson now has 44 career PGA Tour titles. Or, 45, if you count THE MATCH. I’m sure his accountant does. Mickelson will turn 49 on June 16. Also June 16? The final round of the U.S. Open. At Pebble Beach. It’s almost too perfect. Almost. . .

Matthew Wolff: After an impressive PGA Tour debut at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, the Oklahoma State sophomore went back to doing what he does best—absolutely dominating college golf. Wolff fired a final-round 65 to win his fourth consecutive tournament to start the season.

Great name. Crazy swing. Mickelson might want to get to that 50-win mark before this kid shows up on the scene full time.

Akshay Bhatia: Then there’s this junior golfer who just turned 17 and is so good he won’t even play college golf. Bhatia recently joined the Golf Digest Podcast to discuss his decision to turn pro at 18 among other things.

And in the meantime, he added another trophy to his collection by winning the Jones Cup (he beat a UGA sophomore, Davis Thompson, in a playoff) to move into the top 10 of the World Amateur Golf Ranking. Again, as a JUNIOR golfer. It was great talking to Akshay for the first time, but sadly, I don’t think he took my offer to caddie for him when he turns pro seriously.

This Utah Jazz fan: But can Akshay or Matthew or even Phil putt as good as some dude named Andrew? It's debatable. This Utah Jazz fan putt on a putting clinic during a recent game, burying five putts from different distances in a row. And all of them were no-doubters. Check it out:

Seriously, this guy could be the GOAT putter. It's a shame he only won $8,850 for that performance. Speaking of disappointing prizes. . .


El Tucan’s payday: The substitute caddie for Matt Kuchar at the Mayakoba Golf Classic confirmed to Golf Magazine’s Michael Bamberger that he only received $5,000 ($3,000 base pay for the week plus a $2,000 tip) after helping Kuchar win his first PGA Tour title in more than four years. The Mexican caddie named David Giral Ortiz had hoped to receive $50,000 (A regular PGA Tour caddie would have typically gotten 10 percent of Kuchar’s winnings or about $130,000). He has since been offered $15,000, but turned it down.


Rob Carr

For one of the PGA Tour’s most popular players, this is not good press.

Paul Casey with the lead: To be fair to Casey, he got absolutely blitzed by Phil Mickelson in a weird final round. And he played much better than Rickie Fowler did the previous week when he still managed to win. Still, the Englishman, who like Rickie has a mystifyingly low total of PGA Tour titles, is now 0-for-4 when holding a 54-hold lead in the U.S. But if you find a bookie offering place-or-show bets, Casey is your guy.

Playing golf with Tom Brady: As thrilling as the prospect of playing with arguably (Yes, arguably) the greatest football player ever would be, the story Jordan Spieth told Dan Patrick last week is a bit alarming. Apparently, Spieth beat Brady on the 18th hole at Augusta National in a match and Brady didn’t talk to him at lunch for an hour-and-a-half after. "I feel like I've very, very competitive, and he is the most competitive human being I've ever met,” Spieth said. Sorry, but I’m leaning more toward Tom being a sore loser. And yes, I’m still being a sore loser about betting against the Pats in the Super Bowl.

The green jacket police: Golf fans have long known about Augusta National laying down the law. And by the law, I mean their own law (See: Gary McCord for saying “bikini wax,” Charlie Rymer for using a cell phone, me for not sitting up on the sixth hole’s grassy hill as a fan, etc.). But the story about the club sending a cease-and-desist letter to a group of “pub pals” in England to stop calling their tournament the “Coverack Masters” and to refrain from awarding a green jacket, takes the cake. In related news, remember all those times I’ve talked about my buddies trip awarding a green jacket? Well, forget I said it. We definitely (* Deletes photos and videos from phone *) do NOT give out a green jacket to our winner. . .


The PGA Tour heads to Los Angeles for the Genesis Open, AKA that event at Riviera Country Club that Tiger Woods hosts.

Random tournament fact(s): Tiger Woods has never won this event. What a gracious host, huh?


— A local caddie on a winning PGA Tour bag will get paid that low again: 5,000-to-1 odds

— Tiger Woods will win this week: 20-to-1 odds (Actual odds. Hmm. . . He's due. . . right. . . ?)

— More golfers will start trying to imitate Matthew Wolff's funky golf swing: LOCK


Poor Clint. It was late.


Phil Mickelson’s reaction to the horn stopping play on Sunday night was classic:

So was Ho Sung Choi’s reaction to juuuuust missing a birdie:

Sadly, it wasn’t Ho Sung's week. But he’ll be back. . . we hope!

And Nick Faldo did a pretty good imitation of Sergio Garcia’s recent temper tantrum:

Guess these two still aren’t exchanging Christmas cards.


SO MUCH TO CHOOSE FROM THIS WEEK! First off, congrats to former Miss America Kira Kazantsev for making the cut in her AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am debut.


Ben Jared

Even more impressive than her T-18 finish is that Kira was only invited to play in the event on Monday. Then again, she’s a former Miss America who plays golf. Let’s just say she’s pretty familiar with the pro-am circuit.


Donald Kravitz

Then there was Tony Romo, who hit the shot of the week. Of anyone, including PGA Tour pros. And that’s not an exaggeration.

Wayne Gretzky showed off a different kind of slap shot:

And finally, congrats to Ray Romano on a great Netflix special, making the cut for just a second time in 18 tries, and for not nearly killing Jordan Spieth this year!

Although, I believe that outfit is from Mugatu’s “Derelicte” line.


“I think both myself and Tiger are going to have very good years this year.” —Phil Mickelson. Sign me up for that!


Love the “Watch your face” hashtag. Love that he’s wearing a golf glove and golf shoes even more. What a beast.


Even tour pros aren’t immune to travel disasters. Well, the ones who aren’t galavanting around on private jets, at least. Tommy “Two Gloves” Gainey got a last-minute invite to play at Pebble Beach, but unfortunately, he wound up getting stranded at the Atlanta airport and having to give up his spot.


James Nitties set a European Tour record for making nine consecutive birdies during the Vic Open, then credited the burritos made by roommate Nick Flanagan the night before. Sadly, they weren’t magic burritos, though, as Nitties shot 74-75 the next two days to finish T-62. . . . Bernhard Langer won his 39th PGA Tour Champions event and became the tour’s all-time leading money earner at $27,196,504. Yep, he’s made more than TWENTY-SEVEN MILLION DOLLARS playing senior golf. What a legend. . . . John Rollins was at Pebble Beach to caddie for Hunter Mahan when a spot opened up after the alternate list had been exhausted. He took it, made the cut and earned $17G. Pretty good considering Mahan missed the cut. . . . And speaking of caddies, Tim Mickelson, Phil's brother and caddie, had quite a day:

And he clarified which of those winners paid better:

Just a hunch, but Phil probably made a few bucks on Fiery Lady as well.


Who will win more PGA Tour titles, Matthew Wolff or Akshay Bhatia?

When will we see Ho Sung Choi in a PGA Tour event again?

What will Phil do next. . . to finish runner-up at Pebble Beach in June?