Mickelson's shot at No. 1, Clark's mojo and more to watch this week
Jason Day is a member at Colonial Country Club and missed out on a three-man playoff there by just a shot last year.
Tim Clark played so well he shouldn't have had to be in that playoff, and certainly shouldn't have lost the thing.
"I can't take anything positive from today," he said after giving up a two-shot lead with five holes left and missing putts of less than 10 feet on the 72nd hole and the first hole of the playoff. (Steve Stricker birdied the second extra hole to win.)
Clark and Day are each coming off their first Tour victory, but neither will be the favorite to win this week's Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial, the last stop of the four-week Texas swing.
Phil Mickelson, who won the '08 Colonial but didn't get a chance to defend last year after the breast cancer diagnosis of his wife, Amy, will compete for the first time since his second-place finish at Quail Hollow on May 2. With a victory, he will assume the top spot in the World Ranking currently held by Tiger Woods. Mickelson has never been ranked No. 1.
Stricker will return from a sore right shoulder that kept him out of the Players — he pronounced himself rusty but pain-free on Tuesday — and Kenny Perry, a winner here in 2003 and '05, is lurking again after top-25 finishes in his last two starts.
Yet with all of those subplots, it is perhaps Clark who merits the most attention coming into the third-to-last tournament before the U.S. Open. (Not that we're counting.)
Day spoke about getting the monkey off his back at the HP Byron Nelson Championship last week, but Clark had an entire primate exhibit on his shoulders until he won the Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass three weeks ago.
Clark took a four-stroke into the back nine on Sunday at the 2007 John Deere Classic, and lost by a stroke to Jonathan Byrd.
Playing in Sunday's final group at the next week's U.S. Bank Championship in Milwaukee, Clark lost by four to Joe Ogilvie.
Then came Colonial last year. It was here that Clark had fired a final-round 66 in '08, only to fall into a tie for second with Rod Pampling when Mickelson made birdie from the trees on 18.
In '09, with one arm practically in the winner's customary plaid jacket, Clark couldn't convert either of two putts to win, and his approach on the second playoff hole hit the stick and caromed more than 20 feet away before Stricker mercifully put him down.
"I have a lot of work to do when it comes to closing out golf tournaments," Clark said, eliciting no argument.
After he fired a final-round 65 to tie for second at this year's Bob Hope Classic, Clark, 34, had eight runner-up finishes and was the Tour's career money-leader without a win (nearly $15 million).
Then he broke through at Sawgrass in his 206th Tour start.
"This may just be what gets me started," he said after playing what he considered the best golf of his career, including a bogey-free final-round 67 to win by two over Robert Allenby.
A short-but-straight hitter with a slightly unconventional swing, Clark has been a known talent for years. He played golf for N.C. State, finished second at the 2006 Masters and dispatched Tiger Woods 4&2 at the 2009 WGC-Accenture Match Play.
Clark's best golf, though, may have come at the Presidents Cup at San Francisco's Harding Park last fall, when he went 9-under through 15 holes to beat Zach Johnson 4&3.
"It was really impressive," said Johnson, who fell over backward when Clark rolled in his final birdie putt to close it out. "I'm five under, and I don't even get to see the last three holes."
Was that Clark's best golf, or was it what he showed at the Players? Or, with this week's Colonial and the Open at Pebble Beach looming on the horizon, is his best yet to come?
Now that he's apparently done the "work" to figure out how to close out a golf tournament, it's an intriguing question.
On Other Tours...
- Bobby Clampett, who tied for fifth place at the Regions Charity Classic in his second start on the Champions circuit two weeks ago, is among the newly minted seniors who will take on Colorado Golf Club at the Senior PGA Championship in Denver. Bill Glasson, who turned 50 on April 29, also will join the oldies tour at CGC, where defending champion Michael Allen, Fred Couples, Fred Funk, Mark O'Meara and Tom Watson will be among the favorites to win the year's first 50-plus major.
- Luke Donald, Sergio Garcia, Alvaro Quiros and the brothers Molinari — Edoardo, Francesco — will be among those trying to win the Madrid Masters at Real Sociedad Hipica Espanola Club de Campo. (Try fitting that on a trophy.)
- The LPGA stops in Brazil for the limited-field HSBC Brasil Cup 2010 at Itanhanga Golf Club. (It's an exhibition, with unofficial money.) Catriona Matthew defends. Brittany Lang and last week's runner-up Angela Stanford will also compete.