First things first, in the above photo, you can’t see that Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els are both wearing shorts. I’ve seen Els in shorts and I’m OK with it. I think today was the first time seeing Phil in them… and I just…it’s weird.
It was both a quiet and major news day on Tuesday at the PGA Championship. On a personal note (because I’m sure you care), I feel really behind because I was initially supposed to arrive on Sunday afternoon and then I pushed it back to Monday, but then because of inclement weather in the NYC area, flights were all delayed or canceled, so I didn’t get in until Tuesday afternoon (and my luggage didn’t arrive) — yep, off to a blazing good start! But all things considered, I can’t complain.
At the last minute, I found an Airbnb that is a 10-12 minute walk door-to-door, which is just amazingly convenient. You never know with these listings because the homes might be just half a mile away and you might be next door, but you then you have to walk like an hour to get to the entrance. Thankfully, this listing was accurate and because of the very limited on-site parking (players and caddies only), the entrance to the tournament is basically where it always is for the regular PGA Tour event. Just thought I’d share that because I know you’re all super interested in the mundane crap that comes along with covering majors! #notreally
Happy 100th, Ernie and Phil!
Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson are both playing in the 100th major championship of their careers this week. That’s pretty incredible. Els and Mickelson first met at the 1984 Junior World Golf Championships in San Diego (ahhh, I *loved* that event!). The two legends will become the 13th and 14th players to reach triple-digit figures for majors played.
Here’s a list of the first 12 to achieve the feat:
Ernie and Phil did a joint presser this afternoon. Here are some highlights:
JOHN DEVER: I’m going to ask you both this question. What gave you a bigger sense of accomplishment in your major championship career, was it breaking through and winning that first one or being a multiple Major Champion?
ERNIE ELS: Just to be able to compete and to be able to be in contention; I can’t tell you the feeling that gives us as players to actually have a chance to actually be able to win one of these events.
You know, obviously, Phil has had a great time winning five. I’ve won four. But we’ve been in the hunt, so to speak, many, many other times and didn’t quite come off. But you know, it’s a hell of a thrill. It’s what we play for, what we practice for; and you want to pull off great shots in the bigger stage. So ’94, ’97 was obviously a great time for me. I was very young, so I kind of got the monkey off my back, so to speak, early on.
Obviously Phil, took him awhile, but when he did get it off his back, he won multiple times. Yeah, but it’s a wonderful feeling to be in contention.
JOHN DEVER: Same question for you, first or second, which was a greater legacy builder?
PHIL MICKELSON: Took me longer to win the first one, so I think I had more of a buildup than Ernie did winning at such a young age. When I finally did break through, that was really the highlight. I believed that once I won one, I would win multiple, so getting that first one was really important.
You can see from the picture there, I was fairly overjoyed with that first win.
Phil and Ernie were both also asked to share what they admire about the other’s career and accomplishments. Phil waxed about Ernie’s foundation Els for Autism and his beautiful swing. And I thought Ernie’s words for Phil were very heartfelt and touching:
Phil reminds me of a player of — an Arnold Palmer, a Seve Ballesteros, a bit of Fred Couples; a guy with a lot of talent. He talks about my short game, but we all know about his short game. And really, the pure genius that he has around the greens. And sometimes, in some places he hits the ball, people want to see how he gets out of there. And 90 percent of the time, he gets out of there and probably will make a birdie.
I think his fighting spirit speaks for itself. You know, you guys were pretty hard on him early on in his career, when you didn’t quite pull it off, and when you did, as you say, you’ve won quite a few of these major tournaments. That means he’s got a good fight within himself.
And just looking at Phil’s family, obviously our kids are pretty similar in age. They have remained friends for a long time as we have competed against each other. He’s a pretty good guy and, you know, hell of a golfer.
Phil and Ernie were also both asked about the impact Tiger Woods had on their careers. When I’ve thought about all that they’ve accomplished — probably Phil a little more than Ernie for whatever reason — it’s impressive how many times they won during those golden years of the Tiger Era. (I also lump Vijay Singh in with these handful of players that still managed to win quite a bit during Tiger’s heyday.)
“I feel as though had Tiger not come around, I don’t feel I would have pushed myself to achieve what I ended up achieving, because he forced everybody to get the best out of themselves,” said Mickelson. “He forced everybody to work a little bit harder. He forced everybody to look at fitness as a big part of the game of golf, and I think that’s actually helped me with longevity, working with my trainer, Sean Cochran, for 14 years now, trying to stay flexible and so forth to elongate the career. And I feel like that’s been a big part of it and he was a big influence on that.
“So I don’t think I would have had the same level of success had he not come around.”
BIEBS IN DA HOUSE!
Yep, Justin Bieber was in da house today and hanging with Bubba Watson, Wes Bryan and Kevin Na. Here’s one video from Na’s Instagram:
Major schedule changes
Speaking of an offseason in golf, Rory McIlroy had his pre-tourney presser on Tuesday and he thinks the sport would benefit from a break. “I think that’s one of the things that benefits the NFL so much is the exclusivity of it,” said McIlroy. “They play, whatever it is, 16, 18 weeks a year. But for the other 30-odd weeks a year, everyone’s still talking about it. They are talking about what’s going to happen next season. The anticipation, the hype builds. “I’ve always thought that an off-season in golf would be good. Not just for the players to get a little bit of rest and work on their games and whatever, but just from a fan perspective. You know, create a little bit of hype before the season starts again. So I’d be a big advocate for an off-season, if we ever had one.” PLEASE. YES. PLEASE. MORE PLAYERS EMPHASIZE THIS.
And speaking of Rory, he’s had a great track record at Quail Hollow. He captured his first PGA Tour victory at this venue in 2010. He made a long, winding putt on the 72nd hole to post a 62 in the final round that year. I remember watching Rory’s back nine on TV and it was absolutely epic. In 2012 he was in a playoff and ended up losing to Rickie Fowler. Rory ran away from the field in 2015 with a seven-shot victory at this venue. There have been some changes to the course and they redid the green complexes (changed the type of grass) a few years ago, which caused some controversy in 2013 because the greens were in very rough shape that year. What the heck? — that was over four years ago?? Time seriously flies. Back to Rory: No news in the caddie department. His best mate Harry Diamond will be on the back again this week. Rory will reassess after the PGA and go from there. “I guess it was on my mind for a while (parting ways with former caddie JP Fitzgerald),” said McIlroy. “And I said this last week, there’s never a good time to change. Especially, as I was alluding to, we don’t really have an off-season. So when is the best time to be able to get know someone and work with someone. There’s no really good time in the golf schedule to do that. “That’s why, for at least these two weeks, I wanted to have someone that I knew beside me and didn’t have to get to know them and there wasn’t that awkward spell where, you know — so anyways. “So yeah, it was on my mind for awhile, and yeah, I don’t know. It’s one of those things. I guess I was trying to accomplish a more like clutter-free mindset on the golf course. Try to take a little bit more responsibility. “I feel like if I make a decision, that’s mine and I own it. And even if it’s good or bad, I can accept that myself and I alluded to it last week, as well. I was getting very hard on JP and probably shouldn’t have been. But it was more, I just wanted to, I just didn’t want to have that frustration on the golf course. So that’s really what I was trying to accomplish. “Last week I really enjoyed myself with Harry. We had a lot of fun on the course and hopefully we have a lot of fun on the course this week, as well.”
LONG DRIVE CONTEST The top 3 finishers in the 2017 PGA Championship Long Drive Competition were Jason Kokrak (321 yards), Tyrrell Hatton (316 yards) and Dustin Johnson (315 yards). Mind you, the conditions were WET. Every player I spoke with brought up that there was no roll. Here are the other top finishers in the Long Drive Contest, which are for the most part, the usual suspects:
James Hahn, who isn’t known to be a bomber, was quite proud of his drive. I brought it up when he was hopping into his courtesy car at the end of the day and he was pumped about it. He said he was playing with Ryan Fox, who piped it like, 330 yards, but it didn’t qualify because it was just off the fairway by four inches.
I have a couple of podcasts that I recorded last week that I’ll start rolling out ASAP. Keep an eye out for those. Suggestions welcome, please! Who would you like to hear from? Give me your podcast dream guest list! Check out my Instagram and Insta-story for updates throughout the day, and of course, my Twitter feed. Some scenes from today:
A glimpse from behind-the-scenes Tuesday afternoon @pgachampionship @quailhollowclubpga … me doing an interview with #golfchannelchina in Mandarin speaking real good (but also saying whatever the hell we want because no one else understands); Phil in shorts (weird); a few neat souvenirs in #merchtent including @seamusgolf; Kuchar grinding on the range (last man standing!) & Sergio Garcia rolling putts on the practice green. End. ⛳️️ A post shared by Stephanie Wei (@stephaniemwei) on