Tiger Lefty Duel Coming to a Head

By Associated PressJune 10, 2006, 4:00 pm
U.S. OpenFAR HILLS, N.J. -- A back corner of the locker room at the Byron Nelson Championship is reserved for past champions, the perfect place for an impromptu duel between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.
 
Woods was changing his shoes and chatting with a few reporters last year when Mickelson walked into the room. Before long, two of the best players in golf starting lobbing school-yard challenges at each other, everything from racquetball to tennis, from basketball to swimming. Weary of where this was going, Woods ended the banter with a playful shot at Mickelson's physique.
 
'Tell you what,' Woods told him. 'I'll take you on in anything where you have to run.'
 
Mickelson smiled, but went silent, one of those rare times he was at a loss for a comeback.
 
When and where their rivalry began is hard to pinpoint. They have been linked so often that Mickelson was surprised to hear the first time he and Woods played the same tournament was the 1993 Nissan Open. Woods received an exemption as a 17-year-old amateur and missed the cut, Mickelson was in his first full season on the PGA TOUR and tied for 19th.
 
They never have met in a playoff, as Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer did at the 1962 U.S. Open. And for the last several years, Mickelson merely has been part of the rotation of rivals to Woods, sharing time with Ernie Els or David Duval or Vijay Singh.
 
That's no longer the case.
 
Woods-Mickelson figures to be the main event at the U.S. Open when it starts Thursday at Winged Foot.
 
They are Nos. 1-2 in the world ranking. Their peers say they have the most raw talent in the game. They have won four of the last five majors, with Mickelson capturing the last two. And for the first time since Woods' record victory in the '97 Masters, he might not be the favorite at a major championship.
 
'There's clearly two guys out here doing the thing, doing the damage,' Paul Azinger said. 'I think Phil Mickelson is the best shotmaker on tour right now. I think he's the most confident player in the world. And I think he's the man to beat.'
 
How Woods will perform is a mystery.
 
He has been coping with the May 3 death of his father, and Woods has not played since the Masters. The nine-week break is the longest of his career.
 
'It's a matter of getting sharp -- not mentally sharp, but golf sharp,' John Cook said. 'It will be interesting to see how Winged Foot goes for Tiger.'
 
No matter how much emphasis is on Woods and Mickelson, the first priority is getting a handle on Winged Foot. This will be the fifth U.S. Open held on the classic Tillinghast design in Mamaroneck, N.Y., a course known for greens that slope severely toward the front, cavernous bunkers, tree-lined fairways and deep rough.
 
'I just earned a ticket to hell,' Mark Brooks said after making it through a U.S. Open qualifier.
 
The USGA has introduced graduated rough, where the grass grows taller the farther it gets from the fairway. Big hitters have been swinging from the heels on the PGA Tour with little regard for where it goes, finding it just as easy to hit wedge out of the rough as a 6-iron from the middle of the fairway.
 
Winged Foot might not allow for that. The rough is so deep that Mickelson said there might be a thousand golf balls buried in there, hit by members who couldn't find them.
 
'I'm going to make a prediction that somebody hits the wrong ball in the rough,' Mickelson said.
 
Mickelson and Woods ran into each other at Winged Foot a few weeks ago, in the clubhouse when each took a break from practice, and later as they crossed paths on the fairway.
 
But meeting in majors, or any tournament, is rare.
 
Woods held off Mickelson at Bethpage Black four years ago in the U.S. Open, although they were separated by one group. The one time they did play together in the final round at a major was at the 2001 Masters, when Woods held him off to capture his fourth consecutive major. In regular PGA Tour events, there was that sizzling duel at Doral, which Woods won with a 6-foot par on the last hole.
 
But don't get the idea Mickelson is always on the wrong end.
 
It was Lefty who stopped Woods' winning streak at six by beating him in the 2000 Buick Invitational. Woods went four years without losing a 54-hole lead on the PGA Tour until Mickelson beat him that year at the Tour Championship, denying Woods a 10th victory.
 
And lately, in the majors, Mickelson is the one holding the trophy.
 
'There have been times where I've come in under the radar not having played that well, not being considered a favorite,' Mickelson said. 'But I think that's going to be unlikely for the U.S. Open.'
 
What makes a rivalry is not so much head-to-head meetings, rather the record. Nicklaus and Palmer are famous for that playoff at Oakmont in '62, but their rivalry was compelling because of their different personalities, they way they were perceived by the public and how they swapped green jackets. Either Nicklaus or Palmer won the Masters five straight years.
 
Woods, like Nicklaus, has an incomparable record among his peers, with 48 victories and 10 majors. Mickelson, like Palmer, rarely goes anywhere without his ears ringing from so much applause, especially when a major goes to New York.
 
And they have had their moments in the press.
 
Mickelson irritated Woods three years ago when he told a magazine that Woods uses 'inferior equipment.' He meant to say Woods uses outdated technology, such as a 43-inch shaft made of steel, and Woods eventually caught up with the times. Mickelson apologized to Woods before the '03 Buick Invitational, and Woods wound up winning by four shots while playing with Lefty in the final group.
 
Brad Faxon filled out that threesome. He was called 'Switzerland' that day.
 
But it was Mickelson who was among the first to publicly say Woods was singularly responsible for a spike in PGA Tour purses. And when Mickelson's winless streak in the majors reached 0-for-40, it was Woods who rallied to his defense by saying that Mickelson had so much talent that it was a matter of time, and that Mickelson was the best wedge player on tour.
 
Their relationship often is misunderstood, which is not to suggest they're best friends. It didn't help when they both played poorly while paired together for the first time in the Ryder Cup two years ago. They rarely spoke, and stood some 20 yards apart on the first tee of their opening match.
 
Nicklaus saw a different side to their relationship last year at the Presidents Cup.
 
'The first day I get there, Tiger and Phil said, 'Hey, let's go play some pingpong.' Two guys are playing, having a good time, laughing, kidding each other,' Nicklaus said. 'Now, is that bad blood? I'm sure they're competitors. Absolutely, they want to beat each other. But you know, they still spend time together and enjoy each other's company.'
 
The year Woods turned pro, Mickelson was one of the biggest attractions in golf. His fourth victory that year came at the World Series of Golf, the same week Woods was winning his third straight U.S. Amateur. Players gathered around the TV in the locker room at Firestone to watch the U.S. Amateur, wondering what to make of this guy.
 
'When he turned pro, you still weren't sure how good he was going to be,' Mickelson said. 'And when he won in the first few weeks, that's when everyone realized he was going to be an incredible player.'
 
He passed Mickelson within three years. Now, Mickelson is doing his best to catch up.
 
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    Angela hits Sergio in stride on field at Superdome

    By Grill Room TeamDecember 18, 2017, 3:22 pm

    Sergio and Angela Garcia's super 2017 keeps getting more ... Super ... Dome. (+1 awful blog lede.)

    The couple started the year with Sergio's win at the Masters, then embarked on a whirlwind green jacket media tour, then kicked off El Clasico, then attended Wimbledon, then got married, then announced they were expecting their first child ...


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    And now, they're throwing each other passes on the New Orleans Saints' home turf at the Superdome.

    Man, it must be so cool do that at the Silverdome. ... ... ... I'm sorry, it is the Superdome, brothers.

    Newsmaker of the Year: No. 1, Justin Thomas

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 18, 2017, 1:00 pm

    He won a major, captured the FedExCup and was named the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year. It should come as no surprise that Justin Thomas holds the top spot on our Newsmakers list for 2017.

    Thomas entered the year ranked outside the top 20, and few might have pegged him for a transcendent campaign. But he kicked off January with a win in Hawaii, added another before leaving the Aloha State and never looked back.

    Thomas’ seminal moment came in August when he captured the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow for his breakthrough major title. One month after greeting Jordan Spieth behind the final green at Royal Birkdale, this time it was Thomas’ turn to have friends stick around to snap pictures with the trophy that signaled his arrival among golf’s upper echelon.


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    In addition to racking up the hardware – five in total, including the inaugural CJ Cup at Nine Bridges in his first start of the new wraparound season – Thomas dazzled with style. His runaway win at the Sony Open included an opening-round 59, and his third-round 63 at Erin Hills marked the first time anyone had ever shot 9 under on a U.S. Open venue.

    Thomas’ consistency was rewarded at East Lake, when a runner-up finish at the Tour Championship netted him the season-long title and $10 million prize. It was in the subsequent press conference where he shared the goals list he had written into his cell phone in February, having ticked off nearly every one. It showed a dedicated attention to detail as well the tactical approach with which Thomas had steered his rapid ascent.

    Heading into a new year, he’s now very clearly entrenched as one of the world’s best. And as his career progresses, it’s likely we’ll look back at 2017 as the point where Thomas first transformed great potential into eye-popping results.

    Win No. 1: Title defense at the CIMB Classic

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    Win Nos. 2 and 3: The Hawaiian double

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    Record Round No. 1: 59 at the Sony Open

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    Record Round No. 2: 63 at the U.S. Open

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    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 18, 2017, 12:30 pm

    Cabreras win PNC Father/Son Challenge

    By Associated PressDecember 17, 2017, 11:36 pm

    ORLANDO, Fla. - Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. closed with a 12-under 60 for a three-shot victory in their debut at the PNC Father/Son Challenge.

    The Cabreras opened with a 59 at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club and were challenged briefly by the defending champions, David Duval and Nick Karavites, in the scramble format Sunday. The Argentines went out in 30, and they had a two-shot lead with Cabrera's son came within an inch of chipping in for eagle on the final hole.

    They finished at 25-under 199 for a three-shot victory over Duval and Karavites, and Bernhard Langer and Jason Langer. The Langer team won in 2014.

    Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara tied for fourth at 21 under with Jerry Pate and Wesley Pate.

    Cabrera wasn't even in the field until two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange and his son, Tom Strange, had to withdraw.

    Duval and his stepson went out in 28, but the Cabreras regained control by starting the back nine with back-to-back birdies, and then making birdies on the 13th, 14th and 16th. The final birdie allowed them to tie the tournament scoring record.

    ''This is certain my best week of the year,'' said Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion and 2007 U.S. Open champion at Oakmont. ''To play alongside all the legends ... as well as playing alongside my son, has been the greatest week of the year.''

    The popular event is for players who have won a major championship or The Players Championship. It is a scramble format both days.

    In some cases, the major champions lean on the power of their sons for the distance. O'Meara said Saturday that his ''little man'' hit it 58 yards by him on the 18th. And on Sunday, Stewart Cink said son Reagan told him after outdriving him on the opening four holes, ''In this tournament I may be your son, but right now I'm your Daddy!''

    Jack Nicklaus played with his grandson, G.T. They closed with a 64 and tied for 15th in the field of 20 teams.