IT WASN'T always pretty, but Phil Mickelson's last-minute theft of the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas (with a 14-under 266), two days after Tiger Woods announced that he would not be playing in this week's Memorial, sets a juicy stage for the U.S. Open. Only a few months ago Woods had whipped the field in three straight tournaments and everyone was talking Grand Slam. Now Woods will tee it up at the Open off a disappointing second at the Masters and nine weeks of rehab after April 15 surgery on his left knee. Mickelson, on the other hand, will be riding in on old Mo (that's momentum for you beginners). He's fresh off his second session of hugging the kids on the 72nd green this season, and both his long game and putting seem to be rounding into form. What's more, the showdown between Nos. 1 and 2 in the world will take place on the South course at Torrey Pines, a track both lay claim to as a personal stomping ground. Woods has won the Tour's Buick Invitational at the course six times, including the last four in a row, while Mickelson, a San Diego native, grew up playing there and has won three Buicks himself. "I wish the U.S. Open was next week," Mickelson said on Sunday. "I'm ready now. Why do we have to wait?" Maybe we're waiting for you to work out the high left block that seems to bedevil you under pressure, Phil (Ryder Cup 2004, Winged Foot '06, Riviera '07 and Colonial '08), since it's a lot more fun to picture a final-round shootout if we don't have to conjure a drama-killing fade into the cabbage on the 72nd hole.
? PRO GOLFER Erik Compton, 28, received his second heart transplant on May 20 at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami and is recovering well, according to doctors. Compton was born with dilated congestive cardiomyopathy and underwent his first transplant when he was 12. He went on to become the No. 1 junior in the country, an All-America at Georgia, and he won on the Canadian and Hooters tours before rising to the Nationwide. Last fall he began experiencing heart trouble and suffered a heart attack on Sept. 27. There's no word yet on whether Compton will resume his career, but it's hard to bet against a guy who's two-over par in hearts and still kicking.
? THE REIGNING U.S. Amateur champ, Colt Knost, doesn't have much time for the game's icons. He turned pro last fall, forfeiting an exemption to the Masters, and last week he said thanks but no thanks when Jack Nicklaus offered him a sponsor's invite to the Memorial. The decision follows Knost's fourth MC in five PGA Tour starts this year, and comes three weeks after he won his first pro event, the Nationwide's Fort Smith Classic. That win moved him to eighth on the Nationwide money list, where the top 25 earn a full PGA Tour exemption for next year. "That's what I need to be focused on now," Knost says. O.K., but there are 18 more Nationwide events this year.... USC won the 2008 NCAA Women's Golf Championship last friday at the University of New Mexico golf course by shooting 16-over 1,168 to hold off archrival UCLA, (22-over 1,174) and three-time defending champ Duke (28-over 1,180).
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