Notes: Overton gives Lefty a hand in match
SANDWICH, England – Having tied for 58th at the Scottish Open Sunday and followed it with a commitment with Barclays Monday, Phil Mickelson arrived at Royal St. George’s Tuesday and immediately discovered that wind was an issue.
As he got out of his car, Mickelson looked over to say something to his swing coach, Butch Harmon, when he lost his grip on some money. Next thing he knew, pounds were flying through the cool English air. Since he was parked close to the media center, Mickelson discovered a couple of golf writers were in the area and playfully they offered to help the left-hander recover his money.
Mickelson smiled, but declined the offer, and showing his brilliant recovery skills, he had his money scooped up within a few grabs.
The financial picture got even brighter when Mickelson and his partner, Jeff Overton, survived brutal conditions and scratchy play to beat Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler in a match. Financial concerns were not disclosed, but we can tell you this – Overton’s scrambling prowess was borderline outrageous. At the par-3 11th, for instance, Johnson and Fowler were already in with par when Overton, who had missed the green left with his drive, then right with his pitch, rolled in a 40-footer to remain 3 up.
Just a few holes earlier, the Indiana University product had hit a low, screaming hook that buried in rough perhaps a mere 200 yards off the tee. He then proceeded to slam a fairway wood to the back of the green, then two-putt from about 45 feet to halve a hole.
“All set up by a great drive,” huffed Johnson with great sarcasm.
As if those and other up-and-downs hadn’t frustrated Johnson and Fowler, Overton at the 18th hole drained a massive putt that enabled his team to win a press, after having already won the match.
It continued a series of practice-round matches at the bigger tournaments that Mickelson and Overton have had against Johnson. Usually, Johnson has played alongside Steve Marino, but a bit of a snafu precluded that from happening – namely, Johnson didn’t know Marino was in the Open Championship field and thus asked Fowler.
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Luke Donald revealed that the move to No. 1 in the world hasn’t come without its sacrifices.
In his case, art has taken a hit.
“(It’s) something I obviously did in college,” said Donald, a one-time standout at Northwestern. “I haven’t done it a lot lately. Golf has always been my No. 1 passion and having a young family now has taken up a lot of my time.
“Hopefully one day I’ll pick up the art again.”
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The only par 5 back on the homeward holes, No. 14, seems a pushover based on the yardage – 547. But there’s out-of-bounds down the right side and some 300 yards out is the “Suez Canal,” a burn that cuts through the middle of the fairway. With the hole playing dead downwind Tuesday, the sensible tee shot was a 4- or 5-iron to get it out there 250, 260 yards and not bring the water into play.
Dustin Johnson did just that, but then he re-loaded and gave it a go. His first attempt with the driver found the burn, but his second cleared it on the fly, much to the delight of a marshal who stood there in amazement.
Unfortunately, the only par 5 on the front, the 564-yard seventh, was a different story. It was dead into the wind and Luke Donald said he couldn’t reach the fairway, which requires about a 280-yard drive.
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Check the scores (78-77) that left him outside the cut at Royal St. George’s in 2003, and you might scratch your head, wondering why Charl Schwartzel has decent memories from that British Open.
The answer is simple. “I think I led the Open after three holes,” Schwartzel said. “I got such a fright when I saw my name on the leaderboard that that was all I can actually remember.”
The reigning Masters champion was making his major championship debut in 2003, and while he has missed the cut in three of five subsequent visits to the Open Championship, Schwartzel is in good spirits. Part of that also stems from the fact he won a prestigious amateur tournament, the Brabazon Trophy, at Royal Cinque Ports right down the street from here.
“I’ve got very good memories about it,” the South African said. “I think the wind was actually a bit stronger than it was today (25-30 miles per hour).”