Phoenix Open Pro-Am: Mickelson fights feeling old, amateur hits hole-in-one

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Keegan Bradley bragged about outdriving Phil Mickelson by 30 yards on Tuesday and how he left the 44-year-old veteran golfer a note in the fairway, "letting him know the senior tees are not that far off. Don’t get too worked up about it."

Mickelson claimed Bradley outdrove him by only 11 yards as the two loosened up at the Waste Management Phoenix Open Pro-Am.

"I had not played the hole before," Mickelson said. "If that’s what it takes to stroke his ego, then that’s what it takes. Had I known that he was going to make a big deal about it, I would have swung a fraction harder and put it past him."

For the record, Mickelson said that he was bombing drives 25 yards past Bradley just a week ago, at a fundraising event that included a long drive competition.

The friendly banter, as it does these days, centered around Mickelson’s age. The 28-year-old Bradley and one of Mickelson’s Waste Management Open group partners, 26-year-old Ricky Fowler, admitted they felt old themselves. Twenty-five is probably the cut-off to be labeled a young gun, Bradley surmised.

So Mickelson, the ASU alum who won the tournament in 1995, 2005 and 2013, surely looks like the old man on the course. At the Phoenix Open, which begins play Thursday morning at TPC Scottsdale, he’ll be making his second appearance of the 2015 season, which follows a bit of a hiatus that helped him get his body right after a difficult 2014 run.

During Mickelson’s time off — he was out four months after a struggle in the Ryder Cup — he even became an interim assistant coach at ASU under head coach and brother Tim.

Phil Mickelson was paired with Chris Berman for Wednesday’s Waste Management Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale. 

"I recently got fired from that position," he joked Wednesday.

He’s back, but Mickelson announced that he’s set aside a few of his favorite tournaments to spend more time with family. He will take off the Pebble Beach Pro-Am and Northern Trust events in February.

"I love the ability to have balance," he said, adding that his two children will be on spring break during the two events he’ll sit out.

While Bradley was quick to poke at Mickelson’s age, Fowler wasn’t biting on betting against a pro who has been a mentor to him. Mickelson admitted he thrives well when the Super Bowl is in town (he won when the Super Bowl was in town in 1996 and was runner-up in 2008, when the event returned to Arizona).

Then again, Fowler didn’t exactly call Mickelson young, either.

"He is over the hill, but he’s got plenty of fight left in him," Fowler said. "I have enjoyed getting to know him kind of like a big brother out here. I think there was a past interview or some sort that I referred to him as a dad figure of some sort. That didn’t settle too well. I don’t think he liked that one much."

Tiger’s return to 16th was approaching.

Around noon, the 16th hole’s bleachers were already reaching capacity when pro Kevin Na’s group entered the grandstands. Na’s relatively nondescript fivesome — no offense, guys — wouldn’t go without making itself known.

To the delight of the crowd, amateur Dave Wood knocked in a hole-in-one on the 163-yard, par-3 hole.

"I saw that an amateur had a hole in one today," Mickelson said. "I heard the roar. How could you not? It was so loud. It was terrific to hear. What a thrill. I wonder who that is … But that hole can be intimidating."

Want to know who Wood is? Twitter helped us out. He’s the father of Arizona Wildcats tight end Trevor Wood and offensive lineman Carter Wood. Dave played at Arizona from 1981-84 and spent two years with the San Francisco 49ers.

Indeed, the success wasn’t universal at a hole that one would think is intimidating for an amateur.

ESPN personality Chris Berman apparently struggled on that hole — he also pegged a woman on one bunker shot.

Pro Bowl wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders surprised Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians on the third hole of the TPC Scottsdale course and shadowed his former coach for a bit. Sanders, who plays for the Denver Broncos, was a third-round selection of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2010 and played his first two seasons under Arians, who at the time was the team’s offensive coordinator.

"I love E, he’s a great kid and he’s an avid golfer, too," Arians said.

Arians found himself paired with pro Bubba Watson at the Pro-Am.

"Bubba’s a fantastic golfer but an even better person," the Cardinals coach said. "Hit some good shots and we had a great team, had fun."

Ricky Fowler on the possibility he becomes a member of the first golfing Olympic team: "As far as making an Olympic team, you know, it’s a new thing for golf, obviously being the first time in there. For me, it would be a dream come true really I haven’t ever dreamt of."

This was odd. 

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