In deserts thousands of miles apart, two golfers seeking to recapture past glory found more heartache. At the Waste Management Phoenix Open, 2012 Masters champ Bubba Watson, largely missing from leaderboards since donning the green jacket, saw a par putt slip past the hole on 18 to lose by a shot to Kevin Stadler. And in Dubai, Tiger Woods continued his stumbling start to 2014 by finishing T41 in the European Tour's Dubai Desert Classic for the worst two-tournament performance to start a season in his career.
Phil Mickelson played three largely brilliant rounds of golf to finish second at the European Tour's Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, one shot behind winner Pablo Larrazabal, leaving Lefty with plenty of positives heading into his PGA Tour season. But one hole was vintage Phil, and not in a good way. On 13 at Abu Dhabi National, Mickelson hit his drive into the brush, then incurred a penalty with a double-hit attempting to get the ball back into play with a right-handed punch, leading to a triple-bogey 7.
Here's what some possible contenders are saying leading up to this week's Open Championship at Muirfield Golf Course:
• Tiger Woods: "I feel very good about my game. I felt very, very good going into major championships. I've had a pretty good year this year so far; won four times. Even though I haven't won a major championship in five years, I've been there in a bunch of them where I've had chances. I just need to keep putting myself there and eventually I'll get some."
He wasn't the people's choice, but Justin Rose, an overnight success 15 years in the making, grabbed the 2013 U.S. Open by the throat with a clutch final-round 70 — the only score among the leaders to equal par. His 1-over finish gave him an unexpected but well-deserved two-shot win over Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.