Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Familiar N.J. Turf for Lefty

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Familiar N.J. Turf for Lefty

Article excerpt

SPRINGFIELD -- Phil Mickelson stood near the edge of the 18th green at Baltusrol Golf Club early Sunday afternoon, just a few feet from where he hit the famous chip that won him the 2005 PGA Championship.

Baltusrol always will hold a special place for Mickelson because of that win -- his second in a major. But it also means more to him because of the man who had walked with him for this early practice round: Doug Steffen, the longtime head pro at Baltusrol.

Steffen and Mickelson met 11 years ago, when Mickelson was getting ready for that memorable PGA Championship. Steffen showed Mickelson around Baltusrol, offering up the ins and outs of the historic Lower Course in several practice rounds. But what started as an educational experience for Mickelson turned into a lasting friendship.

"We're very close to Doug," Jim "Bones" Mackay, Mickelson's caddie, said after Sunday's round. "He's a guy's guy, and Phil loved hanging out with him, and we've gotten together with him 15-20 times since probably. He's just a great friend. A phenomenally good guy."

A lot has changed in the last decade. Steffen is set to retire after the PGA Championship. For Mickelson, now 46, this likely will be his last chance to play a major at Baltusrol as a contender. But the friendship has endured, and it only makes this week all the more special.

"It's something that we've been looking forward to all year," Steffen said of himself and Mickelson. "Both of us have been. He's been looking forward to coming back here, and he loves this place and the people love him and it's just wonderful to have him back."

On Saturday, just six days after nearly winning the British Open, Mickelson was at Baltusrol getting in some early work. Steffen was by his side. Mickelson didn't need to relearn the golf course -- Baltusrol is largely the same venue it was 11 years ago -- but Steffen advised him on some of the subtle alterations. …

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