Mickelson fumbles shot at being No. 1

It could have been a coronation. Instead, it was a
disappointment.

The world No. 1 ranking was there for the taking. All Phil
Mickelson had to do was finish in the top four at the Bridgestone
Invitational.

But as has been the case for the past few months when a win or a
strong finish would have gotten him past a faltering Tiger Woods
and into the top spot, Mickelson couldn’t do it.

”It was a rough day,” Mickelson said after an ugly 78 in
Sunday’s final round. ”I felt pretty good today. I felt good on
the range, I hit some good shots. I felt like I was sharp and ready
to go attack the golf course and make some birdies. And it just
didn’t happen.”

Mickelson was tied for 10th heading into Sunday. But seven
bogeys and a double-bogey (and one lonely birdie) left him at
3-over 283 and tied for 46th instead.

”I don’t know what to say,” Mickelson said

Meanwhile, Woods had the most dreadful tournament of his
professional career. His final-round 77 left him at 18-over par –
his worst showing ever over 72 holes in relation to par. He beat
out only one player in the 80-player field, posting his worst
finish ever in a four-round tournament by ending up in a tie for
78th.

Ireland’s Padraig Harrington is one of a number of players
lurking behind the second-ranked Mickelson and third-ranked (but
injured) Lee Westwood. He has his own opinion of the pecking
order.

”Lee Westwood is the most consistent player in the world. Phil
is playing the best golf in the world when he plays well. And Tiger
is the best player in the world,” Harrington said. ”That kind of
sums it up.”

Woods’ lost weekend opened the door for Mickelson to take over
the No. 1 spot in the world. But he fumbled the chance.

He said he was frustrated that he hasn’t taken over No. 1 even
though Woods has been stuck in neutral (or worse) all year.

”If I keep finishing ahead of him every week eventually it’ll
happen, but the problem is there’s guys behind me that will pass me
because I’m not playing well enough right now,” Mickelson said.
”I’ve got some work to do to get my own game sharp.”

QUOTE OF THE DAY: Padraig Harrington, on the world’s No. 1
player’s troubles: ”It’d be a very naive and and a very foolish
man to write Tiger Woods off.”

NO LUCK FOR FURYK: Perhaps the best shot of the final round of
the Bridgestone Invitational was also the unluckiest.

Jim Furyk came to Firestone’s 16th hole, the famed 667-yard
”Monster,” challenging for the lead.

”I had some momentum going and was pretty much thinking
birdie,” Furyk said. ”I’m trying to birdie every hole on the way
in, trying to make it interesting.”

So he followed a 350-yard drive by laying up in front of the
large lake fronting the green. Then he pulled out a lob wedge that
zeroed in on the hole from the moment of contact.

”I hit it well. One thing, I was hoping it wasn’t going to spin
too much that I knew it was going to be on the green and I was
going to have a good look, I thought, for birdie,” he said. ”It
really had a chance to be close, and of course I flew it in.”

Only one problem: The ball hit the pin and ricocheted back
toward him, trickling into the lake.

”(It was) just disappointing. I knew that if I could get it to
9 under early, maybe I could put some heat on,” Furyk said. ”It
kind of took any hope of that happening away.”

After taking a drop, he hit a shot to 7 feet and made the putt
for bogey.

He handled the devastating turn of events far better than most
would.

”It happens,” he said. ”It’s disappointing, but there’s
nothing you can do about it. I’ve always been able to accept things
when I’ve hit good shots. When I’ve done all I could, when I hit a
good putt and it didn’t go in, or I hit a good shot and it turned
out bad, I can kind of accept that.”

He birdied the final hole for a 6-under 64 that left him at
7-under 273 and tied for sixth.

”The things I’ve beat myself up over in my career are when I’ve
hit poor shots or haven’t done the right things or haven’t made a
good stroke,” he said. ”When you lose tournaments that way, it
lingers with you. But I did all I could today.”

TOGETHER AGAIN: Two of the biggest names near the top of the
leaderboard after three rounds of the Bridgestone were Ernie Els
and Justin Leonard. They were tied for fourth.

Things didn’t turn out well in the final round for either.

Els had a triple-bogey on the ninth hole and shot a 76. Leonard
mustered just one birdie and also shot a 76. They ended up tied,
again, for 22nd.

BOUNCE BACK: One well-known player who did not have a
final-round meltdown was Retief Goosen. The South African’s closing
65 left him tied for third at 271.

It was his eighth top-10 finish on the PGA Tour this year, best
along with Matt Kuchar (who tied for ninth).

Goosen led through 36 holes before struggling to a 73 on
Saturday.

”That’s why I have a top 10 and not a win, because I had one
bad round in four,” he said. ”If I could put four rounds
together, I’d have a chance.”

Goosen said he was traveling to Wisconsin on Sunday night and
would be at Whistling Straits early Monday morning to begin
preparations for next week’s PGA Championship. He was injured and
did not play in 2004, the only previous time the course hosted the
PGA.

FAST FINISH: Bo Van Pelt closed with a rush at the
Bridgestone.

After double-bogeying the ninth hole in third round, he was just
2 under for the tournament. Over the final nine holes on Saturday
and the final round, he was 7 under, with nine birdies and two
bogeys.

”I fought pretty hard the last 27 to give myself a chance,” he
said after finishing off a 67 that left him tied for third. ”I’ll
try to concentrate on the positives. I’ll be a little ticked off
for about 30 minutes and then go kiss my kids and forget all about
it.”

PLAYING THE ODDS: Padraig Harrington will be keeping an eye on
who the oddsmakers select as the player to beat at this week’s PGA
Championship at Whistling Straits.

”Since the bookies normally get it right, I’d like to see who’s
favored,” he said. ”Players know nothing. Those bookies know
everything. They have to draw that line absolutely perfect, so I’ll
be interested to see where they draw that line next week because
they get it right all the time.”

DIVOTS: Ryan Palmer hit a 402-yard drive on the par-5 16th hole.
… Adam Scott holed out for eagle from 166 yards on the fourth
hole, rated the hardest hole on the course. … Winner Hunter Mahan
received a free drop from flowers near the 16th green, and was able
to save par. … J.B. Holmes averaged 332 yards on his eight
measured drives during the tournament. … The only previous time
before Sunday that Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson each shot 77 or
higher in the same round as pros was the third round of the 1998
British Open. Woods had a 77 and Mickelson an 85.