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Shriners Open should get boost with return of Phil Mickelson

In the years when Las Vegas’ PGA Tour stop failed to attract a quality field — and there were many — former tournament director Charlie Baron routinely would be asked about the paucity of household names in the clubhouse.

Usually he responded by reciting the greens-in-regulation statistics of the journeymen players who were coming.

One year he almost bristled.

“I’ve got news for you,” he said. “Ben Hogan isn’t playing, either.”

But Phil Mickelson is this year.

Though one might not recognize him after he dropped about 30 pounds during a radical weight-loss procedure before the British Open.

The svelte again five-time major tournament champion, one of golf’s biggest stars, will be returning to TPC Summerlin for the first time since 2005 — just as he said he might if the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open moved to a more favorable date.

“I wouldn’t rule it out because I like the golf course a lot — I think most of it will be what time of year it is,” Mickelson said last Thanksgiving weekend after beating Tiger Woods for $9 million in their widely panned match at exclusive Shadow Creek.

The tournament begins Thursday, a month earlier than last year. Brooks Koepka also has committed — the first time the Shriners Open has attracted the world No. 1 — along with others whose names should be more familiar than their greens-in-regulation stats. These include defending champion Bryson DeChambeau and Adam Scott, who briefly played for UNLV.

The galleries that seemed a little larger last year should increase even more as the weatherman also is hitting ’em straight and long — the forecasted high temperatures for the four rounds are 85, 85, 85 and 86, with minimal winds and clouds.

Backman details emerge

A woman identified as the former girlfriend of ex-Las Vegas 51s manager Wally Backman has disclosed details of their domestic dispute.

According to the New York Post, Amanda Byrnes, 39, said Backman, 60, went into an alcohol-influenced rage over her alleged infidelity with Ramon Cabrera, a catcher for the Long Island Ducks — the independent minor league team managed by Backman, who was arrested Aug. 30.

Byrnes denied having a relationship with Cabrera. She also has filed a lawsuit against the Ducks for allowing Backman to drink at the ballpark. An attorney for Backman refuted Byrnes’ claims and said she had a “fatal attraction” for the former New York Mets second baseman.

Around the horn

— Las Vegas apparently will have another minor league soccer team in 2020. The Las Vegas Legends, who began in 2012 as an indoor side, will join the fourth-tier National Premier Soccer League beginning in February.

Daniel Collazo of Argentina, who directed PSA Elite of Irvine, California, to a fourth-round appearance against Major League Soccer’s LA Galaxy in the 2014 Lamar Hunt Cup, has been named general manager.

— When Scott Boras went off on MLB for slippery bases that caused injuries to his star clients Bryce Harper and Kris Bryant of Las Vegas — “The integrity of our game is going to be damaged when the safety of players is not at the forefront” Boras said this past week — internet trolls went off on Boras for negotiating monstrous salaries that have driven up ticket prices.

Wrote one: “Kind of ironic that Scott Boras’ name is involved when the topic of ruining baseball comes up.”

Wrote another: “Scott Boras. The man who is single-handedly trying to make it too expensive for a family of four to attend a game.”

— The Detroit Red Wings have replaced the red material on the chair backs at Little Caesars Arena with black, making empty seats less noticeable to the naked eye and TV cameras. Las Vegas Motor Speedway and other NASCAR tracks have been doing that for years by arranging multicolored seats in haphazard patterns that provide the illusion of full grandstands.

0:01

If you’re not in Kansas anymore, you might be in Las Vegas.

Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports, on Kansas’ battle with the NCAA over alleged major violations within its powerhouse basketball program:

“What’s the old Jerry Tarkanian line about Kentucky and Cleveland State?” Wetzel wrote about Tark’s famous wisecrack that whenever the NCAA gets mad at Kentucky, it gives Cleveland State another year of probation.

“Well, not this time. The NCAA is so mad at Kansas, it might give Kansas two more years of probation.”

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.

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