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Phil Mickelson’s Pebble Beach win has him dreaming of what could be in June

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Phil Mickelson's Pebble Beach win has him dreaming of what could be in June

The steam coming off his head in the Sunday night gloaming at Pebble Beach was undoubtedly due to the frigid air that permeated the tournament, although few would be surprised if Phil Mickelson really was seething over the idea that he wouldn’t be allowed to finish despite two holes to play in enveloping darkness.

His path to victory these days is never going to be mundane, even in a tournament where he went an entire round without missing a fairway — a 20-year first.

And sure enough, he managed to visit unknown parts of the Monterey Peninsula with a few wayward tee shots, endured a soggy, bone-numbing array of 5-plus-hour rounds, waited out a Sunday hailstorm that for a time whitened the course, made up a 3-shot deficit on Paul Casey and then — with victory imminent — all but pleaded to finish when all that would have been visible was his chattering teeth.

No doubt, Mickelson wanted to get home to Southern California on Sunday night, and he clearly wasn’t concerned about squandering a chance at victory because he couldn’t see what he was doing. Phil was on a roll, and wanted to finish it off.

Instead, he had to return early Monday morning to complete his 44th PGA Tour victory, claiming a fifth AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am while also becoming the eighth-oldest winner in PGA Tour history.

For years, Mickelson, 48, has rebuffed talk of his age, choosing to focus on aspects that encouraged him going forward even through a four-year stretch without a victory.

Whether it was continuing to be a part of U.S. Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup teams, finding a new workout routine, changing coaches, discovering a healthier diet, befriending — and needling — tour players who are young enough to be his son, Mickelson did his best to stay young.

The most recent discovery was something he dropped after Friday’s round about some extra distance he picked up.

“So at the end of last year, even though I played poorly, I had something happen where it seemed like overnight — it had really been in the works — where my driver speed shot up 5, 6 miles an hour, which rarely ever happens to anybody, let alone somebody in their late 40s,” he said. “So that led me to be pretty optimistic heading into this year.

“I think that’s going to lead to some good things. If you’re going to be crooked off the tee, you sure as heck better be long and that’s kind of the way I’m trying to approach it.”

Mickelson now has a runner-up finish at the Desert Classic and a victory in four starts this season. A missed cut in Phoenix, Mickelson said, was due in part to a driver experimentation that he quickly abandoned.

That also led him to enter this week’s Genesis Open, which he had not planned to play, prior to defending a title at the WGC-Mexico Championship next week.

He is now ranked 17th in the world and has positioned himself for a run at another Presidents Cup team. It’s a remarkable turnaround since the last-place finish at the Tour Championship and lousy Ryder Cup performance.

Undoubtedly Mickelson will be the subject of considerable conjecture when the golf world returns to Pebble Beach in June for the 119th playing of the U.S. Open, the major that defines Lefty’s bouts of futility more than anything. Six runner-up finishes, some in the most heartbreaking fashion, dot his career, the tournament keeping him from a career Grand Slam.

Nobody has ever won a major championship at the age Mickelson is at now, but then again, not too many players have had the confidence to play two holes essentially blindfolded — as he wanted to do to finish this off Sunday night instead of Monday morning.

The course will be completely different in June, with the rough taller and the greens firmer and no amateurs to take the edge off the proceedings. But that talk is for a different day.

Pebble, of course, would provide the perfect symmetry for such a storybook triumph. It is where he began his professional career at the 1992 U.S. Open. And it is where he will turn 49 on the final day of the 2019 U.S. Open.

A dream? Perhaps. But you can bet Mickelson sees such a scenario playing out clear as day.

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Reports: Bears to cut K Parkey in March

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Reports: Bears to cut K Parkey in March

After a difficult season culminated by a crucial missed field goal on a potential game-winning field goal in the NFC playoffs, kicker Cody Parkey will be released by the Chicago Bears when the new league year begins in March.

FILE PHOTO: Sep 17, 2018; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears kicker Cody Parkey (1) watches his field goal during the first half against the Seattle Seahawks at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

According to multiple reports on Friday, the team intends to cut ties with Parkey once the NFL free agency period begins on March 13.

Parkey, who turned 27 on Tuesday, endured an inconsistent season in Chicago after inking a four-year, $15 million contract last winter following the team’s release of Robbie Gould, the Bears’ all-time leading scorer who moved on to the San Francisco 49ers.

Parkey, a five-year veteran, not only missed a career-high seven field-goal attempts and three extra points during the regular season, but his 43-yard attempt in the final seconds of the NFC wild-card round against the Philadelphia Eagles first hit the upright then the crossbar before bouncing back on the field.

Despite the NFL later ruling that the kick was partially blocked, Parkey took much of the public blame for the Bears’ season ending.

Parkey began his career with the Eagles in 2014 when he made the Pro Bowl as a rookie, scoring a franchise-record 150 points while making 32 of 36 field-goal tries. In two seasons with the Eagles, Parkey never missed an extra point.

Parkey later kicked for the Cleveland Browns in 2016 and Miami Dolphins in 2017.

In January, the Bears signed Tulsa product Redford Jones after conducting a workout that reportedly included multiple hopefuls. Jones made 50 of his 67 field-goal attempts at Tulsa from 2015-17, and he does have a kick on his resume where he hit both uprights. Unlike Parkey’s double-doink, though, that 2016 attempt against Cincinnati ended up going over the crossbar for three points.

“We need more production out of that position,” Bears general manager Ryan Pace said last month after signing Jones. “We know we need to get better there, and it will be an area of focus.”

—Field Level Media

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WTA roundup: Bencic upsets Svitolina to reach Dubai final

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WTA roundup: Bencic upsets Svitolina to reach Dubai final

Belinda Bencic secured a spot in the final by stunning two-time champion Elina Svitolina 6-2, 3-6, 7-6 (3) on Friday at the Dubai Duty Free Championships in the United Arab Emirates.

Tennis – WTA Premier 5 – Dubai Tennis Championships – Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium, Dubai, United Arab Emirates – February 22, 2019 Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic in action during the Semi Final against Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina REUTERS/Satish Kumar

Bencic trailed 5-3 in the final set before recovering to defeat the sixth-seeded Svitolina. She will face second-seeded Petra Kvitova in the championship match after the Czech Republic star defeated Taiwan’s Su-Wei Hsieh 3-6, 6-2, 6-4.

“I think I’m always the most proud of how I fight,” Bencic said after posting the victory. “Even when I lose, I learned myself to just look in the mirror and be proud of myself when I’m fighting, when I’m giving my all, when I’m trying to do what I have to do.”

Bencic won eight consecutive points after Svitolina was in position to close out the match. Then the Switzerland native carried the momentum into the tiebreaker to notch one of the biggest victories of her career by outdueling the Ukrainian.

“Basically, I stayed in the zone, even in (the) tiebreak,” Bencic said. “I was barely breathing, just playing automatic. You are not thinking any more. It’s where the instincts just guide you through it.”

Bencic will be seeking her third career title when she squares off with Kvitova, who will be shooting for her 27th.

Kvitova dropped the first set on Friday before recovering to win the last two.

“It was a tough one today, for sure,” Kvitova said. “She really didn’t give me anything for free. It was a tough first set. I’m glad that I was able to came back in the second. I didn’t play great at the end of the first.

“I think I’m pleased with my kind of mental focus after losing the first set, that I was calmer when I came back and played from the beginning of the second set. I still kind of felt that I can do that somehow. I don’t know. It was something weird.”

Kvitova overcame eight double faults to claim the victory.

Hungarian Ladies Open

Top-seeded Alison Van Uytvanck defeated Ukraine’s Kateryna Kozlova 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 to advance to the semifinals in Budapest.

Van Uytvanck, of Belgium, will face fifth-seeded Ekaterina Alexandrova in the semis. The Russian dispatched third-seeded Frenchwoman Pauline Parmentier 6-3, 6-2.

Eighth-seeded Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic will face Russian Anastasia Potapova in the other semi. Vondrousova outlasted Romania’s Irina-Camelia Begu 5-7, 6-1, 6-3 while the 17-year-old Potapova fought past Romania’s Sorana Cirstea 6-4, 6-7 (5), 7-5 in 2 hours, 50 minutes.

—Field Level Media

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Patriots owner Robert Kraft facing charges of solicitation of prostitution

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Patriots owner Robert Kraft facing charges of solicitation of prostitution

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft is facing charges of misdemeanor solicitation of prostitution after he was twice videotaped paying for a sex act at an illicit massage parlor, police in Florida said Friday.

The 77-year-old Kraft was one of 25 people involved in the alleged solicitation at the Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Jupiter.

Michael Edmondson, spokesman for the state attorney’s office in Palm Beach County, told ESPN that the nature of any charges that the 25 people face will not be released until next week.

Kraft has denied wrongdoing.

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