(Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
By Joel Beall
Long time coming
Adam Long missed the cut in all four Web.com Tour Finals events last fall. Had never won in 135 career starts across the Web, Mackenzie, and Latinoamérica circuits. Started the week 205th in the FedEx Cup out of 218 players, and outside the top 400 in world rankings. Not exactly the profile of a legend killer.
Yet it was Long with raised arms on the 72nd hole, vanquishing 43-time tour winner Phil Mickelson with the shot of the early season to win the Desert Classic.
“In some ways it’s been a little bit of a roller-coaster, but it’s been a steady improvement throughout my career,” Long said. ”I’ve played in pretty much most tours around the world that there are and just kind of steadily progressed. It kind of can seem like it came out of nowhere, but my game’s been trending in the right direction for really the last two years now.”
The 31-year-old Long, who began his day three shots back of Mickelson, opened with a flawless 33 on the front. However, he was upstaged by playing mate Adam Hadwin, as the Canadian made the turn in 31, and another Hadwin birdie at the 11th put Long four behind the lead.
But Hadwin bogeyed the 13th while Long put together three birds of his own—including two chip-ins—in a four-hole stretch. Not to be outdone, Mickelson added red figures at the 15th and 16th, putting the final threesome in a tie going into the last hole. Long missed the fairway, and faced an approach of 175 yards with his ball well below his feet. All he did from there, with Mickelson and Hadwin staring down, is put the smoothest swing you’ve ever seen on a six-iron, his shot finishing 14 feet from the pin.
After his competitors missed their birdie attempts, Long dropped his, giving the former Duke product his first professional win since the 2011 Woodcreek Open on the Hooters Tour.
“I got a pretty good read off Phil’s putt,” Long said. “It was one of those putts that you just stand over you just know you’re going to make. And you can’t control that, but when you have that feeling it’s a good one. I’m in pretty disbelief right now. I don’t really know what happened.”
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) January 21, 2019
Cameras caught Mickelson saying “Wow” when Long’s putt fell, and Long himself exclaimed “Holy crap” to his wife when he walked off the green Both which were apropos. For Long’s second shot, the winning putt, the fact that he had just won $1.1 million (more than double his career earnings from the past seven years) and earned an invite to the Masters, and took down a player of Mickelson’s stature. Forget legend killer; Long became an epic of his own on Sunday.
Mickelson’s streak comes to end
For the first time in 29 years, Mickelson will not be teeing it up at Torrey Pines.
Following his Friday round the 48-year-old Mickelson announced he was skipping his hometown event.
I want to share my updated tour schedule: this week I will be playing here in the desert, Phoenix, Pebble Beach, and then defending my title in Mexico. My streak of 28-straight Farmers Insurance Opens will end next week. I will try to make it up to the great community of SD!
— Phil Mickelson (@PhilMickelson) January 19, 2019
The move is partially a byproduct of the new condensed PGA Tour schedule, but also falls in line with Mickelson’s fall comments about avoiding tough courses in 2019.
“And I’m 48. I’m not going to play tournaments with rough like that anymore, it’s a waste of my time,” Mickelson said in Napa, regarding his performance at Le Golf National during the Ryder Cup. “I’m going to play courses that are playable and that I can play aggressive, attacking, make a lot of birdies, style of golf I like to play.” Torrey Pines does not fit that category: the average winning score hovering around nine under the past five seasons, making it one of the hardest tracks on tour.
Mickelson is a three-time winner of the Farmers Insurance Open, but had played on the weekend in just three of his last seven appearances.
Lowry stumbles, then surges, in Abu Dhabi
Shane Lowry began the final round at the Abu Dhabi Championship with a three-stroke lead. Eleven holes later, the Irishman found himself four shots out of first.
“I completely thought I was gone, to be honest,” Lowry would later admit.
But Lowry, who watched Richard Sterne jump in front with an opening-nine 31, answered with a pair of birdies on the back, and untimely bogeys from Sterne brought the two to a tie on the 18th hole. A wayward approach took Sterne out of the running, with Lowry convertingan easy birdie on the par-5 finisher to win by one.
“I didn’t think I had that in me. The putts I holed, the shots I made…All sorts of things go through your mind in this mad game,” Lowry said. “It’s been a tough few years on the course.”
Lowry, who will be playing more on the European circuit after losing his PGA Tour card, moves into the world’s top 50 with the victory, his highest standing since 2016
Ortiz wins LAAC
Alvaro Ortiz is used to disappointment at the Latin America Amateur Championship. He lost the event in a playoff in 2017, and watched Joaquin Niemann erase his one-shot lead on Sunday with a closing 63 to take the title last winter. So when his overnight lead at this year’s tournament disappeared halfway through the final round, it appeared Ortiz had another reservation for the Heartbreak Hotel.
Yet Ortiz, an All-SEC talent who is prone to occasional bursts of fury, remained calm and responded with vigor, touring the Teeth of the Dog second nine in 31 strokes to win the LAAC by two.
“You can learn through the tough times, more than anything,” Ortiz said. “Those moments … you start looking back, especially a couple years after when you start realizing that showing your emotions really affects you and you have to really be calm and have that mental peace on each shot to do your best.”
A sentiment that was tested at the beginning of the week. Ortiz’s flight on Monday to the Dominican was canceled due to mechanical issues, and he missed a connection on Tuesday that kept him from getting to Casa de Campo until the evening.
Hopefully his journey to Augusta National will be less frantic, as Ortiz becomes the first Mexican to earn a Masters’ bid since Victor Regalado in 1979.
“I can’t wait,” Ortiz said.
The break of all breaks
We’re guessing Jerry Kelly doesn’t play the lottery. No need to with over $30 million in career earnings, after all. But, for the sake of entertainment, the man should buy his numbers this week.
That’s the only reasonable conclusion to this video of Kelly’s wayward approach during the final round of the PGA Tour Champions season-opener, the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai:
Are you kidding me?!
— PGA TOUR Champions (@ChampionsTour) January 20, 2019
Actually, we take it back. Kelly’s not lucky. That is straight up witchcraft.
While snatching eagle out of the jaws of double was the highlight of the week, the trophy ultimately went to Tom Lehman, who overcame a four-shot deficit to beat David Toms by one.