Hello, old friend.
Shortly after 9 a.m. Tuesday, Phil Mickelson drove into the parking lot of a place many believe has haunted him for the past 14 years.
When Mickelson eased his courtesy car into a parking spot near the Winged Foot clubhouse, it was the first time he’d been on the grounds since the evening he drove away after his famous 72nd-hole implosion to lose the 2006 U.S. Open.
That was the fourth of Mickelson’s record six runner-up finishes in the U.S. Open, the only major championship he needs to become the sixth player in history to complete the career grand slam.
Before the 2019 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, Mickelson acknowledged that his window of opportunity to complete the grand slam was closing and that Pebble Beach and Winged Foot might represent his last realistic chances.
He was 49 then, didn’t win at Pebble and is now 50 with a Champions Tour victory recently added to his 44 career PGA Tour wins and five major championships.
Is this week’s U.S. Open at Winged Foot Mickelson’s last stand?
Is it his last best chance to win a U.S. Open?
At 50, is the window almost closed?
“If I were to win this week, it would be a bonus,’’ Mickelson told The Post upon arriving at Winged Foot with a lot of baggage and 14-year-old score to settle. “That’s the way I’m looking at it. I have an opportunity to have a bonus win that I didn’t expect in my career if I can put it all together this week.’’
Mickelson is treating the U.S. Open the way he always looked at the British Open, which in his mind was the least-attainable major of the four because links golf didn’t suit his high-ball-flight game.
Then, when Mickelson won the 2013 British Open at Muirfield, it was a bonus — a special and unexpected victory that he’s cherished possibly more than the three Masters he’s won.
Playing in his 28th career U.S. Open this week, that’s the way he now views this major that’s been so cruelly elusive.
“How I feel about my career and how people look at me is not going to change whether I have a U.S. Open win or not,’’ Mickelson said. “But it would be a nice bonus, something that I would love. It will be a real challenge for me, like winning the British Open was a challenge for me, learning how to play links golf.
“Winning at Winged Foot with this kind of rough, I’ll have to have one of the greatest driving weeks of my career. I need to drive the ball in play. Some U.S. Opens I’ve been able to do it and a lot of times I haven’t. That’s what I’ll be focusing on. If I can hit 10 out of 14 fairways a day, I’m going to have a good chance to win the golf tournament. And if I cannot, then I probably won’t.
“But I almost won Winged Foot in ’06 driving it very poorly, so it can only get better. But that was also my best short-game week.’’
In 2006, Mickelson opted not to carry a 3-wood in his bag, instead going from driver to 4-wood. He hit driver on that fateful 72nd hole — and his tee shot bounced off a hospitality tent — because 4-wood wouldn’t have been long enough to reach the dogleg and give him a look at the green.
He said he’ll have a 3-wood in the bag this week.
“I have a pretty good game plan on how I’m going to play this course effectively,’’ he said. “Certainly, getting the ball in play is first and foremost in that game plan.’’
Asked what his emotions will be like stepping onto the first tee for his 1:27 p.m. opening-round tee time on Thursday, Mickelson said, “I’m going to be focused and ready, but I’ve got to play my best golf this week to have a chance.’’
Rory McIlroy, who’s had a relationship to the Masters similar to what Mickelson has had with U.S. Opens in that it’s the one major that has slipped from his grasp, has some understanding of Mickelson’s plight.
“Phil has been so close in this tournament so many times, and you could argue that this [Winged Foot in ’06] was his best chance,’’ McIlroy said. “I think Phil at 50, I’m sure he’s made his peace with the fact that he may never win this tournament. He may … [he] could go out this weekend and blitz it.
“But at the same time, I think when you get to that stage in your life … and his life has gone the way it has — his career, his family, everything seems to be in a good place — he’s probably made his peace with what happened here 14 years ago.’’
This week, they meet again.
Killian Hayes would love Frank Ntilikina Knicks duo
Three years after the Knicks selected a point guard with French roots with the eighth overall selection, they are in position to do so again if they choose to retrace those steps.
French point guard and lottery prospect Killian Hayes said Monday that he’s been interviewed by the Knicks, who are slated to select eighth again at the COVID-delayed 2020 NBA Draft on Nov. 18.
The 19-year-old Hayes also would enjoy playing with his friend Frank Ntilikina, who has struggled to establish himself in the NBA since Phil Jackson tabbed him with the Knicks’ lottery pick out of France in 2017.
“It would be dope,” Hayes said Monday on a Zoom call when asked about possibly teaming up with the 22-year-old Ntilikina in New York. “He’s not really a true point guard. He can play the 1 or the 2, so I think it would be a good duo.”
Hayes currently is projected in The Post’s latest mock draft to be selected one pick later by the Washington Wizards, who are waiting for five-time All-Star John Wall to work back from a ruptured Achilles.
Hayes, a 6-5 point guard, was born in Florida but he grew up in France, where his father DeRon Hayes, played professionally.
Killian Hayes played two seasons with Cholet, his father’s old team, in France’s top professional league before shifting last season to ratiopharm Ulm of Germany’s basketball Bundesliga. He appeared in 10 games before the league was shut down in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hayes indicated another team he’s interviewed with is the San Antonio Spurs, who also boasted French point guard Tony Parker for 17 of his 18 NBA seasons.
“I’m grateful every time a team is taking interest in me. I never take it for granted,” Hayes said. “I’ve never played in the NBA, so I ask questions about it. I’ve known Frank (Ntilikina) for a long time now, he’s told me a lot about the NBA and what it takes to stay in the NBA. So I’m listening to these guys, because they’ve been through it.”
Arizona 6-11 forward Zeke Nnaji said the Knicks also were one of 22 teams he’s spoken to during this process, but “they were definitely one of the earlier ones” and their discussion was before Tom Thibodeau was hired as head coach.
Fantasy Injury Updates: Julio Jones, Michael Thomas, Davante Adams, more affect Week 4 WR rankings
Across the NFL, there are quite a few wide receivers dealing with injuries. Some of the most notable players include Julio Jones, Michael Thomas, Davante Adams, A.J. Brown, and DJ Chark, all of whom were drafted in the first four rounds of fantasy football drafts. That’s only the tip of the iceberg for WR injuries, as Jamison Crowder, Christian Kirk, Deebo Samuel, Alshon Jeffery, Henry Ruggs, and Breshad Perriman all have questions about their statuses heading into Week 4. The potential absences of these key players will certainly impact our Week 4 WR rankings and could necessitate owners hitting the waiver wire to find potential backups/replacements if these players can’t return to action.
For news about injuries to Jimmy Garoppolo, Tyrod Taylor, and George Kittle, click here. For the latest on RBs James White, Cam Akers, Raheem Mostert, Phillip Lindsay, and Zack Moss, click here. For all the latest fantasy injury news and updates, check back here and on Twitter @SN_Fantasy.
WEEK 4 STANDARD RANKINGS:
Quarterback | Running back | Wide receiver | Tight End | D/ST | Kicker
Julio Jones injury update
Jones (hamstring) was absent all week for the Falcons ahead of their game against the Bears. On game day, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport declared his outlook of playing ” a little bleak” and Jones did, in fact, miss the contest.
Moving forward, Jones’ status is unclear. His injury wasn’t thought to be major, and the team may have just been sitting him out to make sure he heals up and can get back on the field in short order. His practice status will be key this week, but Atlanta does have incentive to play him with Russell Gage (concussion) also questionable this week.
If Jones doesn’t play and Gage is out, Olamide Zaccheaus would suddenly be the No. 2 WR in the Falcons’ offense. He would have some flex appeal, and owners of Jones and/or Gage may want to scoop him off the waiver wire, as fantasy owners may not know the status of the two Falcons receivers until just before kickoff against the Packers on Monday night.
MORE WEEK 4: Top waiver pickups | FAAB budget planner | Buy-low, sell-high
Michael Thomas injury update
Thomas (ankle) missed the past two weeks for the Saints after suffering an ankle injury late in their win over the Bucs in Week 1. Now, it looks like Thomas will soon be returning to action soon.
According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Thomas is eying a Week 4 return from his ankle injury. If he doesn’t suffer any setbacks, that will give him a chance to play in a favorable matchup against a banged-up Lions secondary.
Thomas’ return would be a boon for the Saints, as their receivers have struggled to do damage with him out. It had mostly been Alvin Kamara and the team’s running backs carrying the load, but with Thomas back, the field will be more open for Drew Brees and the strong Saints offense to make plays. Thomas will obviously be a WR1, while Brees and Emmanuel Sanders should see an uptick in production, as well, as the presence of Thomas will help them both.
WEEK 4 PPR RANKINGS:
Quarterback | Running back | Wide receiver | Tight End | D/ST | Kicker
Is Davante Adams playing in Week 4?
The Packers gave Adams (hamstring) right up until game time on Sunday night to decide if he would be active against the Saints. He had been listed as doubtful, and while he missed the game, it seemed that he was close to being ready to take the field.
Adams didn’t practice at all before Week 4’s game, so his status throughout the week will be something to watch. If he can get in a limited session at the least on Wednesday, that should indicate that he is progressing well and will have a chance to play the Packers’ Monday Night Football game against the Falcons.
If Adams suffers any sort of setback or fails to progress in his return, Allen Lazard and Marquez Valdes-Scantling would be must-starts in most formats against an awful Falcons defense and secondary. With Adams in, they fall in the WR3 category in our WR rankings, but Lazard would probably be a top-20 play if Adams is out.
A.J. Brown injury update
Brown (knee) is having trouble recovering from a bone bruise that has kept him out since the Titans’ opener against the Broncos. While the Titans WR coach stated that Brown could return in Week 3 or Week 4, it’s notable that Brown didn’t practice at all last week. So, he may be a bit further off from returning than his fantasy owners hope.
Also, it’s worth noting that the Titans have had to shut down their facility because of several positive COVID-19 tests, per ESPN’s Dianna Russini. That situation is still very fluid, but if Brown can’t get into the facility to rehab his knee or practice, it seems likely that he will be out of commission in Week 4.
As long as Brown is out, WR Corey Davis and TE Jonnu Smith will be the leaders of the Tennessee receiving attack. Their Week 4 matchup against the Steelers may look tough on paper, but top receiving weapons have been able to beat the Steelers this year. Of course, the state of the minor outbreak in the Titans’ facility will bear watching, as that could have an impact on the status of this game. We’ll keep an eye on that moving forward.
DJ Chark injury news
Chark (chest/back) was a surprise inactive for the Jaguars on Thursday night against the Dolphins, and his absence was part of the reason the Jaguars struggled to throw the ball on Sunday. The good news for Jacksonville is that it appears Chark will be returning to action in Week 4.
According to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, Chark was “trending upward” heading into Thursday night’s game against the Dolphins. Though the team ultimately held him out, it was likely just a precautionary measure to be sure he didn’t further aggravate his injury on a short week. But with this much time to recover, he should be good to go against the Bengals and will be a solid WR2.
Is Jamison Crowder playing in Week 4?
Crowder (hamstring) has missed the last two weeks and was declared “doubtful” by Adam Gase very early in the lead-up to Week 3. Now on a short week, it’s hard to imagine that he’ll be able to play barring a surprise improvement. Once he does return, he’ll be a PPR threat considering how often the Jets play from behind, but soft-tissue injuries tend to linger.
The Jets WRs are banged up, as Crowder, Breshad Perriman, and Denzel Mims are all dealing with injuries right now, so it could be another good week to play Braxton Berrios as a DFS sleeper in Showdown/Single-Game lineups. He’s not a recommended play in most fantasy formats, however.
Brittany Matthews flips off Patrick Mahomes haters during Chiefs’ win
Hi, haters, Brittany Matthews sees you.
As Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs torched Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens during “Monday Night Football,” 34-20, Matthews not only called out her fiancé’s critics on Twitter but flipped them the middle finger in an Instagram video.
“I LOVE when the s–t talking comes out! #4……. riiiiiiiight…” Matthews tweeted in response to Mahomes’ fourth touchdown pass of the night.
In a separate tweet, Matthews continued, “No, let them keeping ranking him #4 in the league….. we love it.” On her Instagram story, Matthews also used emojis to mock ESPN’s “Monday Night Countdown” crew for unanimously picking the Ravens to beat the Chiefs.
Earlier this summer, Mahomes ranked No. 4 on NFL Network’s “Top 100 Players of 2020.” Ravens quarterback Jackson finished first, followed by Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks and Los Angeles Rams stud defensive tackle Aaron Donald.
Matthews also appeared in an Instagram video on Monday night, in which she counted to four on one hand adding extra emphasis to the final number.
Mahomes, who got engaged to Matthews this month, finished Monday’s win over the Ravens with four touchdowns and zero interceptions for 385 yards. Matthews then wrapped her night with a Twitter mic drop.
“Guess what, people doubted us, we won, surprised? Nope,” she posted.
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