Mickelson plays mind games with Bradley at Phoenix Open
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) Phil Mickelson majored in psychology at Arizona State. He joked that he still uses those lessons on Keegan Bradley.
”I find it very easy to get in his head,” Mickelson said.
Bradley tried to bait his mentor Wednesday in the Phoenix Open pro-am.
”When I outdrove him today by 30 yards, I left him a note in the fairway, letting him know the senior tees are not that far off,” Bradley said.
Mickelson figured Bradley was still smarting after losing a long-drive contest last week at an outing before the tournament in La Quinta, California.
”I flew it by him 25 yards,” Mickelson said. ”I have gotten a lot more speed in the offseason. That really bothered him. So the 14th hole is a dogleg right to left. I guess he really hammered one. I had not played the hole before. I just hit a little stock cut. … He was 11 yards by me. 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.”
Mickelson might need years of study to analyze Bradley’s superstitions.
For instance, Bradley still hasn’t unpacked his bag from the United States’ 2012 loss to Europe and he travels with a belly putter than he no longer uses.
”I can’t explain it,” Bradley said. ”You don’t have a clue how many superstitions I’ve got.”
The superstitions apply to his beloved New England Patriots, too.
”This is really embarrassing, but I have a set of wide receiver Patriots gloves I put on now and then,” Bradley said. ”I had them on the last time they were losing against the Ravens. I took them off and I left them at home. I didn’t bring them. I get a lot of weird stuff I do.”
The 44-year-old Mickelson tied for 24th last week in La Quinta in his first start since the Ryder Cup in September. He’s winless since the 2013 British Open.
”I feel like my game is where I want it to be,” Mickelson said. ”I just have to now shoot the scores. Last week was pretty encouraging. I didn’t do all the things I want as well as I believe I can, and yet it was pretty close.”
Mickelson won at TPC Scottsdale in 1996, 2005 and 2013. In 2013, Lefty shot 60-65-64-67 to match the tournament record of 28-under 256. He’s making his 26th appearance in the event.
”It’s a wonderful test on the back side with some risk reward that really makes for an exciting event,” Mickelson said.
STREAKING SPIETH: Jordan Spieth is making his first start since winning the Australian Open and Tiger Woods’ Hero World Challenge in consecutive weeks in December.
”It doesn’t feel like I’m going for three in a row, but it’s kind of cool to say that,” Spieth said. ”That was a long time in between.”
The 21-year-old Spieth is making his first start in the tournament.
”It’s a cool atmosphere,” Spieth said. ”It’s unlike any other event. It’s been a lot of fun the last couple of days. … I came out here Friday because the weather has been rough in Dallas. It’s been tough sitting on the couch watching these tournaments and not playing in them and watching my peers get out there and compete. I want to get back at it.”
He won the 2013 John Deere Classic as a rookie.
PARTY PLACE: The par-3 16th was the center of the action Wednesday in the pro-am, with more than 15,000 filling the stadium hole early in the afternoon.
Former Chicago Bears quarterback Jim McMahon was a hit with the rowdy fans when he emerged from the tunnel barefoot and carrying a beer can that he lifted to salute the crowd. McMahon drew more cheers when he hit on the green and two-putted for par.
Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw mini footballs into the stands, taking five tosses to finally get one to a kid in the third deck. He was booed when he missed the green.
Amateur Dave Wood drew the loudest cheer with a hole-in-one. Wood is a former University Arizona defensive tackle who spent two seasons in the NFL with San Francisco. Sons Carter and Trevor play football at Arizona.
TEE TIMES: Tiger Woods will open Thursday at 12:07 p.m. on the 10th tee in a group with Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth. On Friday, they will start on No. 1 at 7:57 a.m.
Phil Mickelson is in the other half of the draw. His group with Hunter Mahan and Rickie Fowler will start Thursday at 7:57 a.m. on No. 1 and Friday at 12:07 p.m. on No. 10.
In other featured groups, Matt Kuchar, Jason Dufner and Keegan Bradley are playing together, and Bubba Watson is grouped with Billy Horschel and Hideki Matsuyama.
TIGER DEAL: Tiger Woods has a new endorsement deal with headphone and speaker company Sol Republic. The Oregon-based company announced the agreement Wednesday.
Woods also has deals with MusclePharm, which now is on his golf bag, and India-based Hero MotoCorp. Hero is the title sponsor of Woods’ World Challenge tournament.
DIVOTS: Bubba Watson is the top-ranked player in the field at No. 4. Ninth-ranked Jordan Spieth and No. 10 Matt Kuchar are the only others in the top 10. Tiger Woods is 47th. No. 1 Rory McIlroy, No. 2 Henrik Stenson and No. 6 Sergio Garcia are playing the European Tour’s Dubai Desert Classic. … Woods played the pro-am Wednesday in a group with Hall of Fame running back Marcus Allen. … Kevin Stadler, the winner last year, is sidelined by a wrist injury.