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August 12, 2005 - LEFTY SHOOTS 65, LEADS PGA - Phil Mickelson playing in the morning on a course which he likes worked his way to a five under, 65, taking charge of the year’s last major, The PGA Championship, being played at Baltusrol in Springfield, New Jersey. The 65, coupled with yesterday’s 67 takes him to eight under, 132 and four shots up on South African, Rory Sabbatini, American veteran, Davis Love III and Britain’s, Lee Westwood. Those going out in the morning dominated the leaderboard and at 2 PM the top eleven scores were finished, in the clubhouse. Then out of no where came Jerry Kelly in the PM who also shot 65 to go with his opening round 70 good enough for second alone at minus 5. He will be paired in the last group with Lefty tomorrow.

Mickelson’s round was not without its typical, dramatic ups and downs. He started on the outward nine and proceeded to birdie 11, 13, 14 and 17 prior to posting an eagle on 18 to finish the first nine at five under, 31. He then goes to the 478 yard, par four, number one hole and posts a double bogey six. He then birdied three, five and eight. His bogies came at 16 and six. He obviously came real close to a possible real low 61 or 62.

Other scores of note include Vijay Singh who shot a three under 67 and stands at minus three, Stuart Appleby, the Aussie, who was even today and is minus three overall, Brit, Greg Owen who was one under today and stands at minus three and Jesper Parnavik, the Swede who shot 69 today to put him at minus three. South African Retief Goosen ranked fifth in the world stayed in the game with an even par day and is minus two overall. An emotional, frustrated Tiger Woods birdied 18 to squeeze by the four over cut line and qualify for the weekend play.

August 13, 2005 - THOMAS BJORN JUMPS INTO CONTENTION AT PGA - Dane Thomas Bjorn found some magic in his bag today as he went out and posted eight birdies with a lone bogey for a seven under 63 as he played catch up at the 87th PGA Championship at Baltusrol in Springfield, New Jersey. Standing at five under he enters tomorrow’s final round one shot behind third round leaders, Phil Mickelson and Davis Love III. Bjorn’s 63 ties the course record recorded by Jack Nicklaus and Tom Weiskopf in 1980.

Mickelson who had teed off with a four shot lead struggled early with three bogies on the front side then settled to play even on his last 11 holes. Davis fashioned a respectful two under 68, his third in three rounds to get to six under. Good friends Mickelson and Love will play in the last pairing tomorrow and as Davis put it in the media room, “I enjoy playing with Phil, and his caddie Jim is a good friend but there is a PGA Championship is at stake and all friendships are aside.”

There is a good number of very competitive tourists who have a shot on Sunday including No. 1 ranked, Tiger Woods, who shot a four under 66 today to get to even par. The contenders include Stuart Appleby (-4), Steve Elkington (-4), Pat Perez (-4) and Vijay Singh (-4). Ben Curtis shot three under and is minus three for the tourney as is Retief Goosen after a 69.

I was struck by Davis Love’s demeanor today. He seemed relaxed, determined and in control. He says his back is not a problem this week and he seems in a zone, not concerned about the crowds or the TV cameras. By contrast Lefty seemed to be thinking too much. Each and every shot seemed to be overly crucial to Phil. Then there is Tiger letting it all hand out with nothing to lose. Vijay is stalking while Goosen is very much in the tournament.

August 14, 2005 - PLAY SUSPENDED AT PGA - MICKELSON MAINTAINS LEAD - With leader Phil Mickelson facing a 3½ foot putt for par on the 14th hole to maintain his one shot lead over Steve Elkington the horn sounded to end play this evening at the 87th PGA Championship, this one in Springfield, New Jersey at famed Baltusrol. Elkington was preparing to tee off on the 16th and will return there tomorrow morning at 10 AM eastern daylight time for a resumption of play.

If you hit your driving club from a tee on the closely mown teeing ground and the ball sails over trees or into ankle deep rough, is that a difficult course set up or is that poor play? If you have a putt with a bit of a break to it but from only seven or eight feet and you miss, once, twice or three times in nine holes, is that a difficult course set up or is that poor play. If you are continually gouging shots out of cabbage around putting greens because you missed the green from 170 yards, is that a difficult course set up or is that poor play? Now if the top golfers in the world are doing this repeatedly is it because they are choking, overcome by heat or whatever else could be the excuse. Well, in my opinion, we saw some of the best in the world today, choking their way around the Lower Course at Baltusrol. Granted the course was playing much more difficult but when you hit your tee shots into the woods the course set up doesn’t come into play, or does it?

Phil Mickelson and Davis Love III went out last with the lead and proceeded to bogey hole after hole. At conclusion tonight, Davis had gone four over through 14 holes and Lefty had squandered two shots to par. Elkington playing with a Lady Luck on his shoulder had played the front nine one under par and was looking really in control. Tiger Woods birdied 17 and 18 to get to -2 in the clubhouse and only two shots behind. Tiger keeps gaining on the leaders because they keep going his way.

Those still in contention include Thomas Bjorn, Vijay Singh, Retief Goosen, Pat Perez and anyone under par when the horn sounded to end play. We’ll be back tomorrow and try and sort this all out.

August 15, 2005 - MICKELSON CAPTURES SECOND MAJOR - The prestigious Wanamaker Trophy is Lefty’s, at least for a year, as he hung in over the last four plus holes this morning as the fourth round which was suspended last evening due to threatening weather was completed. Play was resumed at 10:05 AM with sixteen golfers left on the course and Tiger Woods waiting in the wings for a possible playoff. As play resumed Mickelson stood at -4 with a three foot putt for par on the 14th green. Chasers included Steve Elkington at -3 through 15, Thomas Bjorn also -3 but through 14, Davis Love playing with Phil at -2, Vijay Singh at -2 through 15, Retief Goosen at -1 through 16 and Pat Perez at even par through 14 and all others still on the course were out of contention. Tiger was in the clubhouse at -2 following his 68.

After a couple of bogies and birdies by the leaders it all came down to 18 where Lefty at -3 had to make birdie at the reachable par five to win. His drive was center cut but he hit his approach with a four metal wood off to the right seemingly playing for a kick back toward the hole. His ball didn’t cut and landed then hid in the long stuff down a slope, 25 paces from the flag. Elkington and Bjorn watched on television from the locker room as they also stood -3 needing Mickelson to make par in order to get in a playoff. With a wedge Mickelson gouged the ball out of the cabbage and watched as it hit softly and trickled to within two feet and a tap in for the win. The New York/New Jersey crowd cheered wildly as they have certainly adopted Lefty as one of their own. Mickelson later said he “just thought of similar shots I practice at home in my backyard and just did what I practice”. Bingo!

Mickelson now has his second major and the others should come a tad bit easier than this one. He had clearly struggled mentally over the last two rounds trying to hang on to the lead he established in the first two rounds. His destiny now is for greatness as the wins will mount. He is one of the two most popular golfers with the golf fans in America as he shares that perch with Tiger Woods. In fact, he just might be the most popular. More major wins will only solidify that position. See my article “Mickelson - How Good Can He Be?”



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