AKRON, Ohio – It could have been a coronation. Instead, it was a disappointment.
The world No. 1 ranking was there for the taking. All Phil Mickelson had to do was finish in the top 4 at the Bridgestone Invitational.
But as has been the case for the past few months when a win or a strong finish would have gotten him past a faltering Tiger Woods and into the top spot, Mickelson couldn’t do it.
“It was a rough day,” Mickelson said after an ugly 78 in Sunday’s final round. “I felt pretty good today. I felt good on the range, I hit some good shots. I felt like I was sharp and ready to go attack the golf course and make some birdies. And it just didn’t happen.”
Mickelson was tied for 10th heading into Sunday. But seven bogeys and a double-bogey (and one lonely birdie) left him at 3-over 283 and tied for 46th instead.
“I don’t know what to say,” Mickelson said
Meanwhile, Woods had the most dreadful tournament of his professional career. His final-round 77 left him at 18-over par – his worst showing ever over 72 holes in relation to par. He beat out only one player in the 80-player field, posting his worst finish ever in a four-round tournament by ending up in a tie for 78th.
Padraig Harrington is one of a number of players lurking behind the second-ranked Mickelson and third-ranked (but injured) Lee Westwood. He has his own opinion of the pecking order.
“Lee Westwood is the most consistent player in the world. Phil is playing the best golf in the world when he plays well. And Tiger is the best player in the world,” Harrington said. “That kind of sums it up.”
Woods’ lost weekend opened the door for Mickelson to take over the No. 1 spot in the world. But he fumbled the chance.
He said he was frustrated that he hasn’t taken over No. 1 even though Woods has been stuck in neutral (or worse) all year.
“If I keep finishing ahead of him every week eventually it’ll happen, but the problem is there’s guys behind me that will pass me because I’m not playing well enough right now,” Mickelson said. “I’ve got some work to do to get my own game sharp.”
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QUOTE OF THE DAY: Padraig Harrington, on the world’s No. 1 player’s troubles: “It’d be a very naive and and a very foolish man to write Tiger Woods off.”
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NO LUCK FOR FURYK: Perhaps the best shot of the final round of the Bridgestone Invitational was also the unluckiest.
Jim Furyk came to Firestone’s 16th hole, the famed 667-yard “Monster,” challenging for the lead.
“I had some momentum going and was pretty much thinking birdie,” Furyk said. “I’m trying to birdie every hole on the way in, trying to make it interesting.”
So he followed a 350-yard drive by laying up in front of the large lake fronting the green. Then he pulled out a lob wedge that zeroed in on the hole from the moment of contact.
“I hit it well. One thing, I was hoping it wasn’t going to spin too much that I knew it was going to be on the green and I was going to have a good look, I thought, for birdie,” he said. “It really had a chance to be close, and of course I flew it in.”
Only one problem: The ball hit the pin and ricocheted back toward him, trickling into the lake.
“(It was) just disappointing. I knew that if I could get it to 9 under early, maybe I could put some heat on,” Furyk said. “It kind of took any hope of that happening away.”
After taking a drop, he hit a shot to 7 feet and made the putt for bogey.
He handled the devastating turn of events far better than most would.
“It happens,” he said. “It’s disappointing, but there’s nothing you can do about it. I’ve always been able to accept things when I’ve hit good shots. When I’ve done all I could, when I hit a good putt and it didn’t go in, or I hit a good shot and it turned out bad, I can kind of accept that.”
He birdied the final hole for a 6-under 64 that left him at 7-under 273 and tied for sixth.
“The things I’ve beat myself up over in my career are when I’ve hit poor shots or haven’t done the right things or haven’t made a good stroke,” he said. “When you lose tournaments that way, it lingers with you. But I did all I could today.”
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TOGETHER AGAIN: Two of the biggest names near the top of the leaderboard after three rounds of the Bridgestone were Ernie Els and Justin Leonard. They were tied for fourth.
Things didn’t turn out well in the final round for either.
Els had a triple-bogey on the ninth hole and shot a 76. Leonard mustered just one birdie and also shot a 76. They ended up tied, again, for 22nd.
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BOUNCE BACK: One well-known player who did not have a final-round meltdown was Retief Goosen. The South African’s closing 65 left him tied for third at 271.
It was his eighth top-10 finish on the PGA Tour this year, best along with Matt Kuchar (who tied for ninth).
Goosen led through 36 holes before struggling to a 73 on Saturday.
“That’s why I have a top 10 and not a win, because I had one bad round in four,” he said. “If I could put four rounds together, I’d have a chance.”
Goosen said he was traveling to Wisconsin on Sunday night and would be at Whistling Straits early Monday morning to begin preparations for next week’s PGA Championship. He was injured and did not play in 2004, the only previous time the course hosted the PGA.
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FAST FINISH: Bo Van Pelt closed with a rush at the Bridgestone.
After double-bogeying the ninth hole in third round, he was just 2 under for the tournament. Over the final nine holes on Saturday and the final round, he was 7 under, with nine birdies and two bogeys.
“I fought pretty hard the last 27 to give myself a chance,” he said after finishing off a 67 that left him tied for third. “I’ll try to concentrate on the positives. I’ll be a little ticked off for about 30 minutes and then go kiss my kids and forget all about it.”
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PLAYING THE ODDS: Padraig Harrington will be keeping an eye on who the oddsmakers select as the player to beat at this week’s PGA Championship at Whistling Straits.
“Since the bookies normally get it right, I’d like to see who’s favored,” he said. “Players know nothing. Those bookies know everything. They have to draw that line absolutely perfect, so I’ll be interested to see where they draw that line next week because they get it right all the time.”
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DIVOTS: Ryan Palmer hit a 402-yard drive on the par-5 16th hole. … Adam Scott holed out for eagle from 166 yards on the fourth hole, rated the hardest hole on the course. … Winner Hunter Mahan received a free drop from flowers near the 16th green, and was able to save par. … J.B. Holmes averaged 332 yards on his eight measured drives during the tournament. … The only previous time before Sunday that Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson each shot 77 or higher in the same round as pros was the third round of the 1998 British Open. Woods had a 77 and Mickelson an 85.