Daily Flogging: Kim and Mickelson lead Doral contenders

With no Tiger Woods at Doral, Thursday's media sweep provided a rundown of the CA Championship's notable contenders. There's "something different" about Anthony Kim this week, reports Randall Mell on

says he's serious about realizing the vast potential that's impressed
so many of his PGA Tour brethren. There's no way to know a man's heart,
but the fact that he has never looked more serious lends credence to
his pledge. Kim hit the practice range Wednesday looking trim, fit and
"I'm working hard," Kim said. "I'm keeping a good attitude. When I do that, my game usually shows up."
There were double takes at Doral on Monday. Anthony
Kim played nine holes. There were double takes because Kim doesn't do
Mondays. At least he didn't in his first three seasons on the PGA Tour.
He rarely did Tuesdays. But Kim is making a new habit of becoming among
the earliest players to show up during the work weeks this year.
"I know the more time I put into this, the more success I'll
have," Kim said.
Kim gave his caddie, Brodie Flanders, off on Monday and
let his swing coach, Adam Schriber, carry his bag.  The fact that Schriber is here is yet another
indication that Kim is trying to amp up his commitment. Kim says he's
asking Schriber to spend considerably more time with him at tournament
sites this year. Schriber has been out for three of Kim's four starts.

"I'm super proud of Anthony and the decisions he's making," Schriber said.
"He's heading in the right direction. He's saying all the right things,
but he's a hard kid to push. He has his own timetable."
Schriber sees Kim putting in the work it takes to consistently contend on Tour.
"He's been working out like a mad man," Schriber said. "I think it's just Anthony maturing and realizing the gift he has."

Kim is working harder than ever? Duly noted. Rory McIlroy, the 20-year-old phenom from Northern Ireland, has already officially arrived. You can tell because last week he spent 90 minutes with Jack Nicklaus, EA Sports has added him to the cover of its popular Tiger Woods video game (look out, Tiger, your replacement is being groomed), and he's in Thursday's marquee pairing with Phil Mickelson. Larry Dorman in The New York Times writes:
It is a measure of his maturity that he grasps the significance of that moment.
"He's the second-biggest draw in golf," McIlroy said, pointing to
Mickelson's Q-rating rather than his world ranking of No. 3. "It should
be a lot of fun. So I'm really looking forward to that."
McIlroy sees it as another chance to learn. When he was paired with Mickelson during last season's HSBC Champions in Shanghai, which Mickelson eventually won while playing in the final group with Woods, McIlroy was studying Mickelson's  approach to the game... He also took note of the way Mickelson interacted with galleries, which is a key element of his popularity with fans.
"You go from a green to a tee and Phil will always look at the crowd
and smile and nod, you know, really interact with them," McIlroy said.
"Other guys will stay focused and keep their eyes on the ground and
just walk. I'm probably somewhere in between."
Last week, he picked Nicklaus' brain for 90 minutes about his approach to winning.
"I think one of the biggest things that I took from it was patience,"
he said. "And just to learn to wait and learn to bide your time and
know that if you believe in yourself that it will happen; it will
happen one of these days, so it's just a matter of waiting and staying
McIlroy told Dorman that he also had a session with Bob Rotella, the noted sports psychologist.
McIlroy is pursuing higher knowledge from golf's wise men, sifting and sorting
and looking for ways to improve.Those are telling points in measuring a golfer's potential, and McIlroy's, at the moment, appears to be limitless.
The English invasion, apparent when nine players from England competed in the 64-man WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship last month, was noted by USA Today's Steve DiMeglio, who warned, "The British are coming!"
Paul Casey, who lost to fellow Englishman Ian Poulter in the Match Play final, said he used to be asked what was wrong with English golf. Now he's asked why there are so many Englishmen in the top 100.
"I don't really have an answer for it. But I'm quite enjoying it," he said. "I think all of the guys up there are proving to everybody else out in the world how many good players there
Said Poulter: "I don't know. I just think that there's been a lot of great talent in England for such a long time," he said. "And it's so nice to see guys actually deliver on the golf course. We've been waiting for a long time."
Poulter, meanwhile, has been reveling in that Match Play victory and his newly minted No. 5 world ranking, and enjoying the accolades he's received from other golfers. Peter Dixon wrote in The Times that Poulter was touched by the responses he's gotten:
"When Greg Norman stops his busy schedule for five or ten minutes to phone you and says, 'Well done', that's nice," Poulter said on the eve of the WGC-CA Championship here. And when someone like Arnie sends you a letter, it is hard to express how much it means. It certainly gets the brain ticking. Who
would have thought that. From pro-shop boy to No 5 [in the world]. It's
pretty nice."
It was particularly interesting that Europe's Ryder Cup captain, Colin Montgomerie, should send him a
text. Barring calamity, Poulter has virtually sealed his place for Celtic Manor in October and he appreciated Montgomerie's message. "It said 'Congratulations on the win. Well deserved.' It was nice of him to drop me a line."
This week's spotlight  falls on Phil Mickelson, the second half of golf's one-two marquee punch. Greg Stoda looked at Mickelson in the Palm Beach Post:
Mickelson is The One considered to be the best golfer in the world as long as
Tiger Woods isn't playing. Never mind that Steve Stricker is the second-ranked player in the world behind
Woods, with Mickelson ranked third. Perception tops reality.

"It's hard to say," Mickelson said during a teleconference last month when asked The One question. "Right now, it's turning out to be several players as opposed to just one or two."
"We have one guy who makes us look bad all the time," said Camilo Villegas,
who won the Honda Classic last week.
And that guy remains absent.
There are several players off to better starts to this PGA Tour season than Mickelson, who won this tournament last year. He has made four cuts in four tournaments, but nothing better than a tie for
eighth place and nothing worse than a tie for 45th. Now, however, Mickelson sees an opportunity for a re-set to his schedule.

"When we come to Doral," Mickelson said, "I think that's when
the heart of the season occurs. Everybody is getting ready ... and pretty soon comes Augusta. It's
hard to say what's happening or what will happen until we start hitting the
bulk of the season."

Mickelson's slow start may be due to his being distracted while his
wife and mother continue their recoveries from breast cancer. At least, that's what swing coach Butch Harmon told Randall Mell of
Harmon was on the driving range Wednesday at the WGC-CA Championship and so
was Mickelson's caddie, Jim Mackay, but Mickelson... is forgoing a practice round to spend more time
with his family. He accompanied Amy on a trip to Houston for treatment at the MD Anderson Cancer Center last week.
"The treatment is going well but it takes its toll, the reconstructive surgery takes its
toll," Harmon said. "There are things going on in Phil's life right now that are more important than golf. That's the way it should be. You've seen that in his golf game. He hasn't been as sharp as we anticipated
with the offseason work. Until Amy's better, she's going to be his focus."
"He needs to play. He feels good about what he's doing. It's just a matter of getting your mind 100
percent on it, which is not easy to do."
Irishman Padraig Harrington, a three-time major champion, has fallen to No. 13 in the world rankings, but he's got more to look forward to than just a good showing at Doral, Dixon wrote in The Times:
One thing on the Irishman's horizon is an invitation to the White House next Wednesday to help celebrate St. Patrick's Day. "President Obama is one of the most charismatic and powerful people in the world," Harrington said. "You want to meet these people and see what they are like." And does he have a question for the President? "No. I've got a week to come
up with something interesting," he said.

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by Kevin Cunningham