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Tom Cates' Blog

Imagine Golf Club's Tom Cates on the in-form players heading into the Masters

Posted Mar 17, 2009 by Tom Cates

Phil Mickelson

Anyone else feel the golf season is finally in full swing? Tiger's return, two of the bigger tournaments done and dusted and the first major just around the corner. It won’t take long before The Masters is upon us and I for one can’t wait.
I want to start by congratulating Phil Mickelson on his magnificent performance at Doral. He was the best player in the field and fully deserved his victory. To produce such a stunning performance whilst suffering from illness is further testament to his skills and will to win. He might just be ready to give Tiger a run for his money when the great one is back to his very best. I don't know how many of you watched the final round but Big Phil's abilities couldn't have been better advertised than on the par 5 12th. Having pulled his drive underneath a bush, Mickelson was being advised by his caddy, "Bones" McKay, to take a penalty drop.  He was after all leading by a shot from Nick Watney and plenty more on the rest of the field. Phil wasn't having any of it though and promptly pulled out his 8 iron, inverted it so he could play the shot right handed and then hit a masterful shot, that if it hadn't slammed into a palm tree 40 yards in front of him would have gone a further 120 yards up the fairway. "Where did it go?” cried Phil. "Bones" pointed out he was now behind a tree, in the rough and with no shot to the green. No problems for Leftie, he slashed the ball up towards the putting surface where it finished in the left rough and some 70 yards short of the flagstick.

Watney, who had hit the perfect drive 350 yards down the middle then pulled a 4 iron for his 2nd from 246 yards, (as you do!). He made a great connection but it went a little left and found a greenside bunker. Phil then found a spot on the green some 20 feet from the hole and had a putt for a par!! So having pulled his drive on a 600 yard plus hole, played a shot right handed which hit a tree, slashed out short of the green, a chip later he still had a putt to make par. He didn't make the putt but I was left in awe, a mere mortal would have been staring at a big fat snowman minimum.  That's an 8 to the untutored!

Watney, by the way, stayed in the bunker for his 3rd, then splashed out to 15 feet and missed his putt to also make a bogey 6. He never really recovered from the blow of failing to at least catch his opponent, if not pass him, and saw his birdie putt on the 18th stop one revolution short of going in.  A putt which would have at least tied the scores, albeit with Phil still having a birdie attempt of his own.

So Mickelson makes it two stroke play wins on the bounce after his success at Riveira and can now look forward to Augusta with confidence. His coach, Butch Harmon, believes that he is driving the ball better than ever before and he has also closed the gap on Woods at the top of the world rankings.  Is it conceivable that TW could lose top spot?  Well judging by his performance at Doral, Woods is heading in the right direction. A final round 68 saw him finish in the top 10 on 11 under par. "Well, I'm excited to be back playing again" he said after completing his first 72-hole stroke-play tournament since winning the U.S. Open. "It's been a while. It's nice to get back up there. And obviously Phil is playing a bit better now. But overall, I think the game is in pretty exciting times. We've got new, young blood coming up with Rory (McIlroy), AK (Anthony Kim),  Sergio (Garcia) is playing well, you've got Paddy (Padraig Harrington) winning two major championships. Obviously with Phil and myself there, I think as a whole, I think the game is in good stead right now." He's not wrong!

Other notable performances from the week: Oliver Wilson's magnificent tied 5th spot after a final day 66 - it is surely only a matter of time before this young talent enters the winner's circle. A shot ahead of Wilson and a one place up the leader board was another European Tour stalwart Jeev Milka Singh. The Indian showed just why he is becoming a force on the world stage with a fine tournament. He may have entered the final round with a slim chance of winning, he was 4 shots off the pace, but he could have "spent a lot of money" with a poor final 18 holes. As it was, a two under par 70 meant a 4th placed finish and a very healthy cheque for close to 300,000 euros. His swing may not be text book, but it repeats and it stands up to pressure - I expect a strong major performance from Jeev this year and he'll be definitely be carrying some of my money each way in 2009.

This week the PGA Tour heads to Florida for the TRANSITIONS CHAMPIONSHIP whilst in Europe the players are off to the MADEIRA ISLANDS OPEN in Portugal. Make sure you check out the site for all the news as and when it happens. And look out for Rhod and I's latest pod cast, till next time....
Best wishes
- Tom

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