A battle for the ages between Tiger and Phil

By Associated PressApril 12, 2009, 4:00 pm
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AUGUSTA, Ga. ' They battled each other as though no one else was playing, and for many of those lucky enough to be at Augusta National on Easter Sunday, no one else was.
 
Every shot seemed to spark a new roar echoing through the Georgia pines, and every birdie brought new hope that this might be the most magical Masters of them all.
 
Phil Mickelson started it, but Tiger Woods wasnt about to let him finish it by himself.
 
Not with the green jacket still up for grabs. Not with Augusta National just begging to be taken.
 
Not with what this, the most personal of duels, meant to both men.
 
The record will reflect that Angel Cabrera won this Masters and the coveted green jacket that goes along with it. But anyone watching will tell you that Tiger and Phil stole the show.
Tiger Woods reacts to a missed putt on the seventh green during the final round of the 2009 Masters Tournament. (Getty Images)

The fans who streamed out of Augusta National by the hundreds even as the leaders played the back nine certainly thought so. They could have stuck around for what eventually became the first three-way playoff in 22 years, but there didnt seem much point after the thrills Woods and Mickelson provided.
 
They were the dream pairing, and they delivered more than anyone could have imagined. For the best part of four hours they gave us the kind of moments that Chad Campbell and Kenny Perry cant deliver in their entire career.
 
The patrons, as they call them here, responded by screaming in joy, high-fiving one another, and acting in very unpatronlike ways. Straining to get in on the action, they even ran from hole to hole, the most taboo of all the no-nos at the Masters.
 
They all wanted in on this action, and who could blame them. Mickelson stoked their fire by making birdies from everywhere imaginable on the front nine, and by the time Woods rolled in an eagle putt on No. 8, the game was really on.
 
Behind them somewhere, Cabrera and Perry were playing in the final group and their nerves were beginning to show. Ahead of them was a back nine filled with tantalizing possibilities of birdies, eagles, and even more.
 
How good was this? Just ask one of the men on the inside.
 
It was the most fun I ever had on a golf course, said Jim Bones Mackay, Mickelsons longtime caddie.
 
The fact that there is an undercurrent of bad blood between the two men simply added to the intrigue on this gorgeous spring day. Woods caddie, Steve Williams, said a few months earlier that he hated Mickelson, and the two players arent exactly dinner companions.
 
But this was a day for spectacular golf, not pettiness. And while they werent trading jokes inside the ropes, there was some back and forth.
 
Great shot, Woods kept saying to Mickelson.
 
Back to you, Mickelson said to Woods.
 
Mickelson set the bar high with six birdies in a seven-hole stretch on the front nine, including a miraculous shot through the trees on No. 7 that finished in kick-in range. He tied the front nine record with a 30 and stood on the 12th tee with a 9-iron in his hand, suddenly just a stroke off the lead.
 
Being Mickelson, of course, he promptly hit it in the water.
 
Most players would have collapsed right there. But Mickelson has been in a few jams in his time, and soon the game was back on.
 
Both players were closing in on the lead but still desperate for more birdies. And both had great chances for eagles on the two par-5s on the back nine, only to miss.
 
Mickelsons miss on No. 15 hurt the most. After watching Woods knock it to 15 feet he stuck it to just 4 feet and had an eagle putt to take the lead.
 
It didnt come close.
 
I just didnt trust the read and made a very tentative stroke, Mickelson said. If I had eagled 15 Im right back in the tournament.
 
The finish was anti-climatic because by then the two seemed spent. Woods bogeyed the last two holes, and Mickelson missed a short birdie on the 17th and made bogey on the final hole himself.
 
They would have needed 64s to get in the playoff, and Mickelson ended with a 67 and Woods a 68.
 
But what a blast it was while it lasted.
 
The front nine was awesome. It was really fun, Mickelson said. It was fun to have a chance on the back nine. I think thats what we always want as players.
 
Woods usually wants a little more, and that might account for the scowl on his face as he walked out of the scoring hut off the 18th green where wife, Elin was waiting, dressed appropriately in a red sweater. He hasnt won here in four years now, his longest drought at the Masters, and at times his frustration showed.
 
He hit it terrible on the driving range, and even worse on the first hole when his tee shot went way left into the ninth fairway. He was in danger of being trampled by Mickelson, being overrun by the rest of the field, and getting his ego bruised all at the same time.
 
But somehow he managed to come to the 17th tee with a slim chance to do the unthinkable.
 
I fought my swing all day and just kind of Band-Aided around and almost won the tournament with a Band-Aid swing today, Woods said.
 
Woods didnt stick around to analyze it much further. He was finished, and in no mood to watch anyone else finish.
 
Mickelson lingered a little longer, getting a hug and kiss from wife Amy underneath the huge tree on the clubhouse lawn. Soon, too, he was gone, leaving only with thoughts of what might have been.
 
They came to win, and they came up short. Someone else would wear the green jacket.
 
But as a warmup act they couldnt be beat.
 

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  • What's in the bag: RSM Classic winner Cook

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 20, 2017, 3:52 pm

    PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook earned his first Tour title at the RSM Classic. Take a look inside his bag.

    Driver: Ping G400 (8.5 degrees adjusted to 9.2), with Fujikura Speeder Evolution 661X shaft

    Fairway wood: Ping G400 (13 degrees), with Fujikura Motore VC 7.0 shaft

    Hybrids: Ping G400 (19, 22 degrees), with Matrix Altus Red X shafts

    Irons: Ping S55 (5-PW), with KBS Tour S shafts

    Wedges: Ping Glide 2.0 (50, 56, 60) with True Temper Dynamic Gold S400 shafts

    Putter: Ping Sigma G Tyne

    Ball: Titleist Pro V1

    Monday Scramble: For money and love

    By Ryan LavnerNovember 20, 2017, 3:00 pm

    Lexi Thompson falters, Jon Rahm impresses, Justin Rose stuns, Austin Cook breaks through and more in this week's edition of Monday Scramble:

    It’ll be a long two months for Lexi Thompson.

    She’ll have plenty to think about this offseason after a strong 2017 season that could have been spectacular.

    She won twice, led the LPGA in scoring average and took home the $1 million first-place prize … but she also finished second six times – none more excruciating than the careless spotting in the first major of the year and the 2-foot miss in the season finale – and dealt with the crushing off-course distraction of her mother, Judy, battling cancer.

    Thompson said all the right things after the CME Group Tour Championship, that those types of short misses happen in golf, that she’s overcome adversity before.

    “It didn’t stop me,” she said, “and this won’t either.”

    But at 22, she has already accumulated an incredible amount of scar tissue, especially for a player with world-beater talent.

    What will 2018 bring? For Lexi’s sake, hopefully it’s more wins, not heartbreak. 


    1. The Thompson miss was plenty awkward. So was the end to the LPGA season.

    In a fitting result for a year in which no dominant player emerged, So Yeon Ryu and Sung Hyun Park shared the Player of the Year award, after both players finished with 162 points. It’s the first time that’s happened since 1966.

    Can’t there be some way to break the tie? Low scoring average? Best finishes in the majors? A chip-off content? Rock-paper-scissors?

    2. Some of the other awards ...

    Vare Trophy: Thompson, who finished the year with a 69.114 average. Maybe the players this year were just really good, but it’s a bit of a head-scratcher than 12 players finished with a sub-70 average, besting the previous best total of, gulp, five. Easier setups?

    Money title: Park, with $2.336 in earnings.

    No. 1 ranking: Shanshan Feng, though Thompson had a chance to take over the top spot. Alas, that final green … 



    3. Oh, and there was also the tournament winner: Ariya Jutanugarn, who capped a bizarre year with a satisfying title.

    Perhaps only Thompson boasts as much talent as Jutanugarn, and yet the Thai star showed her vulnerability this year. After reaching No. 1 in the world, she struggled through a shoulder injury and then missed five cuts and withdrew from another event in a seven-start span.

    Here’s hoping she learned how to deal with that spotlight, because she’s going to be challenging for the No. 1 ranking for a while.

    4. Of course, we wrote that about Lydia Ko, too, and she just wrapped up her first winless season on tour since she was 15.

    She had 11 top-10s, including three runners-up, but failing to earn a victory was a massive disappointment for a player who was No. 1 in the world for 85 weeks. Perhaps next year she’ll get back on track, but you never know – she changed swings, coaches, equipment and caddies. That's a lot of turnover.



    5. So much for that “controversial” Rookie of the Year award.

    Jon Rahm, named Europe’s top newcomer despite playing only four regular-season events, left little doubt about who was the breakout star of the year with a comeback victory at the DP World Tour Championship.

    Though it wasn’t enough to claim the Race to Dubai title – he finished third – it should serve as a warning to the rest of the European Tour that the 23-year-old Rahm be the man to beat for the next, oh, decade or so.

    6. Ranked fourth in the world, particularly impressive because he hasn’t yet hit the minimum divisor in the rankings, Rahm wrapped up a season in which he won in California, Ireland and Dubai.

    Just imagine how good he’ll be when he’s not seeing all of these courses for the first time. 

    7. The biggest stunner on the final day was the play of Justin Rose, who entered the final round with a one-shot lead.

    He seemed to be on cruise control, going out in 4 under, but he encountered all sorts of trouble on the back nine, making three bogeys a variety of ways – wayward drives, flared approaches into the water and missed shorties.

    Not only did it cost him the DP World Tour Championship title, but it allowed Tommy Fleetwood – even with a closing 74 – to take the end-of-season Race to Dubai title.



    8. Austin Cook is now a PGA Tour winner – and what a circuitous journey it has been.

    After turning pro in 2014, he played the mini-tours, racking up five top-10s in nine starts on the Adams Tour. A year later, with a chance to earn his Web.com card, he finished bogey-bogey-quad-double. And then last year, Hurricane Matthew forced officials to cancel the Web.com Tour Championship. That left Cook without his card – by $425.

    He made it to the big leagues this fall, after finishing 20th on the money list, and then won in just his 14th career Tour start.  

    “I’ve been close on the Web a couple times but haven’t been able to get the job done, and to be able to do it on the biggest stage in the world, it definitely boosts my confidence and lets me know that I can play with these guys,” he said. 

    9. Sam Horsfield, who in 2016 was the NCAA Freshman of the Year, routed the field at European Tour Q-School to earn his card for next year. He shot 27 under (!) during the five-round event to win by eight.

    Expectations have been high for the 21-year-old ever since he received a public endorsement from Ian Poulter. His mentor chimed in again after Horsfield got his card:

    Another great story to come out of Q-School was Jigger Thomson, who is interesting not just because of his incredible height – he’s 6-foot-9 – but his back story, after battling leukemia as a kid.

    10. A limited fall schedule hasn’t cost Brooks Koepka any of his stellar form.

    The U.S. Open champion defended his title at the Dunlop Phoenix, shooting 20 under par – one off his own scoring mark – and winning by a record nine shots. The margin of victory was one shot better than Tiger Woods’ romp there in 2004.

    This was only Koepka’s second start since the Tour Championship (tied for second at the WGC-HSBC Champions).

    Xander Schauffele tied for second while Hideki Matsuyama finished fifth. This is the time last year, remember, in which the Japanese star was the hottest player in the world, taking four titles in six starts, but he admitted of going up against Koepka right now: “I feel there’s a huge gap between us.” 

    Um, has this ever happened before?

    I.K. Kim had a WILD third round at the CME Tour Championship, making only seven pars and recording everything from a 1 to a 7 en route to a ho-hum 71. 

    This week's award winners ... 


    Back Under the Knife: Davis Love III. Set to undergo replacement surgery on his left hip, Love is looking at another extended layoff, likely about four months.  

    Underrated Fall Performances: J.J. Spaun and Brian Harman. Spaun, who held the 54-hole lead at the Shriners, earned his first runner-up finish at the RSM, his third consecutive top-15. Harman, who won the Wells Fargo in May, had three top-8s. 

    Fill-In Duty: Cameron McCormick. Jordan Spieth’s swing coach will be on the bag for Spieth this week in Australia with his regular caddie, Michael Greller, at home with his wife and new baby.  

    Get Well Soon: Luke Donald. He withdrew from the RSM because of chest pain. He spent the night in the hospital, undergoing seven hours of tests, but was given the all-clear sign. 


    All the Best: Webb Simpson. Wishing the best to the Simpson family, after Webb chose to WD from Sea Island after rounds of 67-68 so he could spend time with his father, Sam, who, Simpson tweeted is “sick and living his last days.” 

    Blown Fantasy Pick of the Week: Charles Howell III. Red-hot to open the season, with three consecutive top-10s, Howell missed the cut at Sea Island where he was 7-for-7 with three top-10s and a tie for 13th. Sigh. 

    Love to undergo hip replacement surgery

    By Rex HoggardNovember 20, 2017, 1:08 pm

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Two days removed from arguably the most hectic week of his year, Davis Love III will undergo replacement surgery on his left hip.

    Love, who hosted and played in last week’s RSM Classic, said he tried to avoid the surgery, but the pain became too much and he will undergo the procedure on Tuesday at the Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center in Birmingham, Ala.

    “I had a hip problem the last few years, and I had a hip resurfacing trying to avoid hip surgery because I’m a chicken, but after playing [the CIMB Classic and Sanderson Farms Championship] I realized it was an uphill battle,” Love said.


    RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


    Love said doctors have told him recovery from the procedure will take between three to four months, but he should be able to start work on his chipping and putting within a few weeks.

    Love, who missed the cut at the RSM Classic, said earlier in the week that his goal is to become the oldest PGA Tour winner and that the only way to achieve that was by having the surgery.

    “Now I’m excited that I’ve crossed that bridge,” said Love, who will turn 54 next April. “Once I get over that I can go right back to the Tour. I won after a spine fusion [2015 Wyndham Championship] and now I’d like to win with a new hip. That’s the reason I’m doing it so I can get back to golf and keep up.”

    LPGA awards: Ryu, S.H. Park tie for POY

    By Randall MellNovember 20, 2017, 1:56 am

    NAPLES, Fla. – In the end, the CME Group Tour Championship played out a lot like the entire 2017 season did.

    Parity reigned.

    Nobody dominated the game’s big season-ending awards, though Lexi Thompson and Sung Hyun Park came close.

    Thompson walked away with the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot and the Vare Trophy for low scoring average. If she had made that last 2-foot putt at the 72nd hole Sunday, she might also have walked away with the Rolex Player of the Year Award and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

    Park shared the Rolex Player of the Year Award with So Yeon Ryu. By doing so, Park joined Nancy Lopez as the only players in LPGA history to win the Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year titles in the same season. Lopez did it in 1978. Park also won the LPGA money-winning title.

    Here’s a summary of the big prizes:

    Rolex Player of the Year
    Ryu and Park both ended up with 162 points in the points-based competition. Park started the week five points behind Ryu but made the up the difference with the five points she won for tying for sixth.

    It marks the first time the award has been shared since its inception in 1966.

    Ryu and Park join Inbee Park as the only South Koreans to win the award. Park won it in 2013.


    Vare Trophy
    Thompson won the award with a scoring average of 69.114. Sung Hyun Park finished second at 69.247. Park needed to finish at least nine shots ahead of Thompson at the CME Group Tour Championship to win the trophy.

    There were a record 12 players with scoring averages under 70.0 this year, besting the previous record of five, set last year.


    CME Globe $1 million prize
    Thompson entered the week first in the CME points reset, but it played out as a two-woman race on the final day. Park needed to finish ahead of Thompson in the CME Group Tour Championship to overtake her for the big money haul. Thompson tied for second in the tournament while Park tied for sixth.

    By winning the CME Group Tour Championship, Jutanugarn had a shot at the $1 million, but she needed Park to finish the tournament eighth or worse and Thompson to finish ninth or worse.


    LPGA money-winning title
    Park claimed the title with $2,335,883 in earnings. Ryu was second, with $1,981,593 in earnings.

    The tour saw a tour-record 17 players win $1 million or more this season, two more than did so last year.

    Ryu came into the week as the only player who could pass Park for the title, but Ryu needed to win to do so.


    Rolex world No. 1 ranking
    The top ranking was up for grabs at CME, with No. 1 Feng, No. 2 Sung Hyun Park and No. 3 So Yeon Ryu all within three hundredths of a ranking point. Even No. 4 Lexi Thompson had a chance to grab the top spot if she won, but in the end nobody could overtake Feng. Her reign will extend to a second straight week.


    Rolex Rookie of the Year
    Park ran away with the award with her U.S. Women’s Open and Canadian Pacific Women’s Open victories among her 11 top-10 finishes. She had the award locked up long before she arrived for the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.