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Mickelson's outlook is a major problem

Sunday, June 23, 2002

David Duval has missed the cut in the past two majors -- the Masters and U.S. Open -- and four of his previous six starts. His best finish this season is fourth at the Memorial.

Phil Mickelson is the No. 2 player in the world, contended on the final day at the Masters and U.S. Open, and won the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic earlier this season.

But while Duval just slips quietly in the background, his game and reputation unscathed, Mickelson keeps getting hammered by everyone from Johnny Miller to Gary Player.

Why?

It's not just because he hasn't won a major championship.

It's because of the way he acts and what he says when he fails to win a major.

Last week at the U.S. Open was just another example. After finishing second to Tiger Woods, the third time he has finished second in a major championship, Mickelson was all smiles and telling anyone who would listen how much fun he had on the final day at Bethpage Black.

"This is certainly not a disappointing day," Mickelson said afterward. "It's one of the most exciting days I've had in golf. It was very electrifying out there, similar to the Ryder Cup [at Brookline, Mass.]. It was an incredible feeling. I could feel the electricity in the air."

Mickelson, then, should carry a lightning detection device in his back pocket, because he had his plug pulled once again by Woods, the world's No. 1 player. And he didn't seem to mind.

To be sure, it's easy to understand why every player from Paul Azinger to Fuzzy Zoeller tries to find something positive about their game when they've just had their head pounded for the umpteenth time by Woods. After all, that's why every one of them employs a swing coach -- to help massage their wounded pride. Why mope when you keep getting beat by perhaps the greater player to ever stroll the fairways?

But that approach doesn't seem to work, either. If Mickelson or any other player thinks staying positive will help them win majors, why has Woods won six of the past nine and seven of the past 11 major championships? Why does he have eight major titles at the age of 26, a pace not even Jack Nicklaus, who won his eighth major when he was 30, could manage?

Get mad, fellas. Throw clubs. Smash toilets. Shove a cameraman. Ignore the media. Something. Anything.

Would someone please step up and do what Duval did last year on the weekend at the British Open?

That way you can say whatever you want, play however you want, and nobody will bother you.

Trivia question

Who is the only golfer to win six British Open titles? Answer at end.

Grants awarded

In a move that will benefit several organizations in the area, the United States Golf Association awarded grants totaling $2.36 million to 112 groups in 35 states. At the top of the list: Pennsylvania, which received more funding than the other 34 states -- 10 grants worth $236,300.

The West Penn Minority Junior Golf Association was awarded a three-year grant worth $100,000. The grant will help fund salaries for youths placed in jobs at area golf courses by the WPMJGA. The grant will also support instruction, access and transportation costs for WPMJGA's year-round junior program.

The Schenley Golf Operating Corp., which provides free passes for Pittsburgh youths to play Schenley Park Golf Course, was awarded $50,000.

The USGA also awarded $6,000 to the Spina Bifida Association for equipment, instruction and continuing education for their weekend-retreat camp in Wexford.

It is believed to be the first grant awarded specifically to teach kids with spina bifida how to play golf, said Rich Conwell, director of golf at Quicksilver Golf Club who runs the instruction program in Wexford.

"I go to camp, give them some instruction, mainly grip and shoulder-rotation thoughts, and everybody hits golf balls," Conwell said.

It is a labor of love for Conwell -- his sister is afflicted with spina bifida.

The program is available for peoples ages 8 to 45. Conwell estimates he gets between 200 to 250 people afflicted with spina bifida at the camp.

The USGA grant will come in handy.

Taking names

This is one outing where the announcement, "The Hess foursome is on the tee," just won't work.

The 17th Annual Hess Open, available only to men who surname is "Hess," is July 5 at Duquesne Golf Club.

Chairman Darrell Hess is looking to top last year's field of 24 players named Hess.

Interested Hesses should call, 412-461-6032.

Liked by the ladies

When Pete Dye was designing Mystic Rock, he was given marching orders from 84 Lumber owner Joe Hardy to build the hardest course in the world.

What he got was a course that has been ranked among the nation's best for women.

Golf for Women magazine ranked Mystic Rock No. 17 among the "50 Best Courses for Women" in the country. Sea Island (Ga.) Golf Club was ranked No. 1, followed by Pine Needles, Boulders, Greenbrier and Blue Fox Run.

The rankings took into consideration course design, quality of play, women's programs and extras such as spa facilities, child-care and food.

Mystic Rock is one of two 18-hole courses at Nemacolin Woodlands resort in Farmington.

Turf tips

Probably no other area in the country seems enamored with greens speed more than Western Pennsylvania. Jeffery Cuny, Sewickley Heights Golf Club superintendent and a member of the Greater Pittsburgh Golf Course Superintendents Association, said maintaining a high-quality putting surfaces is as much an art as it is a science.

"The challenge to any golf course superintendent is searching for the perfect green speed -- a surface that won't frustrate the average golfer yet will satisfy the low-handicap player.

"It is important to establish an overall program to stay on top of what is happening, agronomically, in order to achieve the correct or desired green speed. Aside from the height of the grass, there are three important components that influence the creation of an ideal putting surface:

Smoothness. A smooth putting surface generates less friction. When a green is bumpy, the friction quickly reduces speed.

Uniformity. Making sure that each green is rolling the same. Different speeds from green to green are frustrating and unfair to players.

Firmness. When a surface is firm, the speed of the green is faster. This is one reason for the use of mechanical rollers.

Quotable

Fuzzy Zoeller, after being told the $360,000 he won for winning the Senior PGA Championship two weeks ago was the largest paycheck of his career: "Good God! No wonder my wife was smiling out there."

Dissa and data

The Robert Trent Jones course at Palmetto Dunes, a public course on Hilton Head Island that opened in 1969, will be redesigned and renovated by former Jones protege Roger Rulewich.

The Marconi Pennsylvania Classic, the first PGA Tour stop in Western Pennsylvania, provided $200,000 to local charities. The leader was Latrobe Area Hospital Foundation, which received $150,000.

The Armbrust Christian Academy is hosting a Twilight Golf Outing, featuring a shotgun start at dusk and glow-in-the-dark balls, Friday at Glengarry Golf Links in Latrobe. Call 724-832-8680.

Carl Stadler of Pittsburgh has been named distributor of Golf Greens "Fore" U -- which builds artificial putting greens in your back yard or basement -- in the Pittsburgh area.

Coldwell Banker Real Estate, Inc. will hold its annual Charity Golf Classic July 15 at Diamond Run. Proceeds benefit Lifesteps' Family Caring Fund and the Mother's Hope Foundation.

Trivia answer

Harry Vardon, who has a grip named after him, is the only player to win the British Open six times.

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