Fifteen Years Later, Shaun Michael Finally Feels Worthy

This ought to be a week that Shaun Micheel savors, returning to a major championship where he can wrap himself in gauzy memories of his finest achievement. Instead, he approaches the 100th PGA Championship with a familiar gnawing anxiety, conscious that every mention of his “once upon a time” fairytale victory in 2003 brings detractors eager to emphasize the “once.”

“I look forward to getting back, but I have some trepidation about the noise that’s going to start appearing on social media before too long,” he said last weekend.

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Molinari Masters The Open At Carnoustie

Carnoustie’s charms can be elusive, but its cruelties are readily apparent. The old links has scant aesthetic appeal, no alluring views or heaving dunes. Like the village from which it draws its name, Carnoustie is simple and functional, and that function is simple: stress test the world’s finest golfers until just one remains unbroken.

Sometimes not even the winner emerges unscathed from a cross-examination at Carnoustie. Paul Lawrie, the 1999 champion, sought therapy after his victory was widely dismissed as a gift from a clownish Frenchman.

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Francesco Molinari held off a stellar field at Carnoustie.

There’s a reason why the lingering images from recent championships here have been of the vanquished, not the victors: Jean Van de Velde barefoot in Barry Burn, Sergio Garcia doubled over in anguish after his putt to win lipped out.

At Carnoustie Opens, one man’s ecstasy is invariably built on another’s agony.

Not at the 147th Open, however. It was won by Francesco Molinari, not lost by his challengers.

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Phil Now More Major Sideshow Than Major Contender

It’s been exactly two years and two days since Phil Mickelson was relevant in a tournament that matters.

That was his outstanding duel with Henrik Stenson at Royal Troon in the 145th British Open. He missed the cut in the 146th edition, and the 147th isn’t looking very promising either after a first round of 2-over-par 73.

That’s not to say Mickelson hasn’t made news in those two years, during which he accumulated zero top-20 finishes in six majors played. He ended a five-year winless drought at the WGC-Mexico Championship in March, but for the most part his headlines haven’t been so much earned with fine play as extorted with sideshow stunts.

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Embattled Steven Bowditch Shows Decency Despite Struggles

It’s reasonable to wonder if the field of sports psychology would exist but for golf. No game does a more comprehensive job of stripping its competitors down to the studs, exposing any rot and weaknesses that lie beneath a once imposing facade.

That’s true of major winners and municipal chops alike. The list of golfers who’ve been thoroughly humbled by one frailty or another reads like roll call at the Hall of Fame.

Putting hobbled Hogan and Watson and Els. With Nicklaus and Woods it was chipping. The greats find ways around it, of course, and move on. But it’s hard to go forward if you’re hitting it sideways. Losing the driver is what they all fear. That’s what finished Ballesteros, Baker-Finch and Duval, and damn near ended Stenson too.

Steven Bowditch doesn’t belong in this elite company, at least not in terms of the ecstasy known to major champions. But when it comes to the agony golf can inflict, the 35-year-old Australian fits right in.

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Chamblee Back in the Swing

It’s 30 minutes from Carnoustie across the River Tay to Scotscraig Golf Club. Unless you’re Brandel Chamblee, in which case the winding journey takes about 15 years.

On July 23, the day after the 147th British Open at Carnoustie concludes, the Golf Channel analyst plans to tee it up at Scotscraig in an effort to qualify for the Senior Open, held that week in St. Andrews. Scotscraig is where he qualified for the 1995 Open at the Old Course, adding a note of nostalgia to his quest.

 

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Phil Mickelson Snuffs U.S. Open Career in One Stroke

It was with the 7,277th stroke of his U.S. Open career that Phil Mickelson finally conceded he will never win the only major championship missing from his mantelpiece.

That was the stroke with which he intentionally hit a moving ball on the 13th hole of Saturday’s third round at Shinnecock Hills, a casual, contemptuous swipe that all but acknowledged the quest had finally broken him.

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“I’ve had multiple times when I’ve wanted to do that, and I finally did,” he told Fox Sports’ Curtis Strange afterward, sounding for all the world like an entitled, petulant child who has just been busted for torching his parents house.

In that single stroke, Mickelson’s carefully constructed veneer fell away, the years of pained diplomacy and outward optimism with which he greeted every failed, painful tilt at the national Open. It was a quiet scream, seen but not heard.

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