PGA Tour Confidential: Phil Mickelson coughs up late lead at Wells Fargo

May 6, 2013

Every Sunday night, the editorial staff of the SI Golf Group conducts an e-mail roundtable. Check in every week for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors and join the conversation in the comments section below.

1. Phil Mickelson was cruising to his 42nd PGA Tour victory with a one-shot lead at Quail Hollow with three holes to play, but went bogey-bogey-par to finish one shot out of the playoff. We saw the full Phil this weekend, with some amazing shotmaking, some wayward tee shots, some questionable decision-making, some expert putting and a key short miss. What did you make of Mickelson's wild week in Charlotte?

Joe Passov, senior editor, travel, Golf Magazine: So much fun just to have him in contention. It almost seems bizarre that he didn't actually win, but he might have been victimized by the worst of the weather at the end, slowing the greens down even more. The late misses weren't actually that bad. As a Phil fan, I'm encouraged.

Ryan Reiterman, senior producer, It's amazing that Mickelson still makes so many silly mistakes. He still has a chance to finish as one of the all-time greats, but you have to wonder if he's just going to keep getting in his own way until the day he's done.

Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: It was Phil being Phil. And that's why we enjoy watching him so much.

Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: In other words, business as usual for Phil. He's got to make that easy birdie at 15 and he's got to hit the 17th green with a 9-iron or wedge. Those were two large mistakes. But that's Phil. Amazing heroics mixed with stupefying stumbles. Count this as another squandered win.

Cameron Morfit, senior writer, Golf Magazine: Typical Phil. It's what makes him so great to watch — to quote Feherty, "like watching a drunk chase a balloon on the edge of a cliff." I'm glad he played better than he did at Augusta. The game is so much more fun with Phil in the mix.

Jeff Ritter, senior producer, We've seen the show numerous times, and it's just as much fun to watch Phil in contention now as it was 10 years ago. Pretty remarkable that he nearly won the event despite all those loose shots.

2. Derek Ernst was ranked 1,207th in the world and the fourth alternate when he got into the field at Quail Hollow and went on to win the tournament. What is your favorite Cinderella Story in golf history?

Van Sickle: It's hard to beat John Daly, the ninth alternate, getting in a car and driving all day from Arkansas to Indianapolis, snag Nick Price's caddie and win the PGA Championship without so much as a practice round.

Morfit: I have to give props to Alan Shipnuck for his story on Rich Beem's first victory at the old Kemper Open, with the late Steve (Asbestos) DuPlantis on the bag. Story was so good it became a book, Bud, Sweat & Tees.

Ritter: Anyone who's seen Caddyshack — and what reader hasn't? — would agree that Carl Spackler Bill Murray hoisting a trophy at the 2011 Pebble Beach Pro-Am is the very definition of a Cinderella Story.

Godich: John Daly's victory at the 1991 PGA, as the ninth alternate. But then who knew that we had created such a monster?

Passov: I'm partial to some of the old Senior Tour guys, like steelworker Walter Zembriski, who battled on the mini tours for years before finding success on the senior circuit. And golf's greatest upset remains Fleck over Hogan in the 1955 U.S. Open. Still, for pure Cinderella Magic, can anything ever touch ninth alternate John Daly's "grip it and rip it" romp at the 1991 PGA?

Reiterman: Have to go with my fellow Ohioan Ben Curtis winning the 2003 British Open — the first man since Francis Ouimet to win a major in his first appearance.

3. Phil Mickelson, Lee Westwood and Rory McIlroy were all around the lead at Quail Hollow. If you had to bet on one at the U.S. Open, whom would you put your money on and why?

Van Sickle: I'll take Phil out of that bunch. Merion is a course that rewards good iron play, especially short irons, and when Mickelson is on his game, he's as good an iron player as there is in the game. Westwood's finishing kick, or lack thereof, did not impress me. Or, I imagine, him.

Passov: For as wild as he is, Lefty's U.S. Open record is surprisingly superb, with all those seconds and another top 5 at Pebble in 2010. Westwood's major results are consistently great as well – just missing the trophy. That said, Rory hits a ton of greens, which bodes well for Merion. He's got my money.

Ritter: Not sure any would be in my top three, but forced to pick one, I'll take Rory. I think he's emerging from his early-season fog, and I could see him having success at a shotmaker's course like Merion. Remember: Rory seemed lost for a time last summer, too, before it suddenly clicked at the PGA at Kiawah.

Morfit: I'd put my money on Phil, because he really might be able to win that thing without hitting a driver, depending on how dry it is.

Reiterman: I'd throw all my bones on McIlroy. He's knocking on the door again, and we all know what happens once when he puts four good rounds together.

Godich: I'll take Phil. Westwood's short game isn't good enough, and Rory doesn't seem like he's able to string four good rounds together. Plus, Phil's got the short game to maneuver around Merion.

4. The players have mostly fawned over Quail Hollow, so much so that it was awarded the 2017 PGA Championship, but somehow, it hasn't quite cracked the big Top 100 lists yet. Its patchwork, moribund 2013 greens aside, where does Quail Hollow rate among Tour courses?

Passov: It's so seldom these days that the pros get to play such a classic-looking course, one with wonderful, mostly natural terrain combined with holes that demand big-boy shotmaking. I'm a fan of all the hardwoods, the lack of sharp edges and the absence of artificiality, with the contrived (but unforgettable) 18th a notable exception. Where it falls flat for me, however, is the lack of individually memorable holes outside of 17 and 18. They're mostly solid, just too similar. That's where Pebble, Riviera, TPC Sawgrass, Harbour Town and Muirfield Village, among others, stand out.

Godich: It has to be in the top five. As for those greens, it's nice to see the world's best experience what the rest of us often face.

Morfit: It's in the top 20 percent, for sure. And the fact that Phil keeps coming close and losing heartbreakers only speaks to its bona fides as a U.S. Open course.

Reiterman: I'd say it's in the top five, maybe top three. Plenty of great risk-reward par 5s, a fun driveable par 4 and a dramatic finishing hole. The 17th is the one glaring weak spot, but it's fun to watch on TV!

Van Sickle: Quail Hollow is a very nice course. It's one of the best layouts on the PGA Tour. It'll be a nice track for the PGA, other than the usual issue of having an event in the heat of August in the South, which will necessitate watering the greens to keep them alive. Thus the PGA often yields lower scores. Not that there's anything wrong with that, eh, Jerry?

5. Thanks to Michael Bamberger, we now know the full story about how Augusta National officials were notified of Tiger's illegal drop at the 2013 Masters. Champions Tour player and rules official Dave Eger had concerns about the drop while watching TV and got in touch with Augusta. How does this new information change your view of Augusta's decision not to disqualify Woods (and Woods' subsequent decision not to withdraw)?

Morfit: At this point Fred Ridley and the Rules Committee probably look worse than Woods, and that wasn't the case the day this all went down.

Passov: I don't care if it was David Eger who called in or David Bowie, I still can't stand the fact that anyone outside of the tournament grounds can affect the score — and outcome — of a golf tournament by a telephone call. Protecting the field? Garbage. The only players that ever get nailed are the superstars or the leaders. The cameras aren't focused on the other guys. End this practice and this particular issue will no longer arise.

Godich: My opinion hasn't changed. Tiger should've been DQ'd, and even when that didn't happen, he should have withdrawn. The fact that such a respected rules official phoned in only reinforces Fred Ridley's mistake.

Ritter: The Augusta rules committee, and Fred Ridley specifically, are probably even more embarrassed. I enjoyed all the new info, but didn't change my opinion: Tiger should've been DQ'd, and the ruling was botched.

Van Sickle: The Tiger case was open-and-shut. He should've been disqualified and I said that from the start. The only question is whether Fred Ridley simply bungled the call or was playing favorites. Either way, I expect a rules official to be walking with every Masters pairing next year to avoid a replay of this fiasco. In Tiger's behalf, and this is only a weak defense, if the Masters officials say you're OK, you should be OK. But you should know better than to be the only guy in a century to sign for a wrong score and NOT be disqualified. No way that's right.

Reiterman: Nothing really changes for me, except Eger proved that you can actually help a player by calling in a rules infraction.

6. Fill in the blank: Vijay Singh not being punished by the PGA Tour for taking a deer antler spray that contained the banned growth factor IGF-1 is _____.

Godich: Sad.

Morfit: Not a great day for the Tour or the World Anti Doping Agency. It's hard to take drug-testing seriously when we can't seem to come to a consensus on what we're testing for and what to do when we find it.

Ritter: A clear signal that the Tour's drug program is not world class, especially when compared to Olympic sports. There's no excuse.

Van Sickle: Vijay Singh not being banned… is a warning shot across the PGA Tour's bow that maybe golf isn't as ready for the Olympics, and its exponentially stricter drug restrictions, as everyone thinks.

Passov: Bone-headed. I'm not saying the penalty should have been harsh, but he should have been penalized in some way, if not for punishment, then for future deterrence.

Reiterman: Ridiculous.