Woods-Mickelson Rivalry at a Crossroads

By Associated PressMarch 8, 2005, 5:00 pm
PGA Tour (75x100)The showdown between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson at Doral captured the largest television audience for a golf tournament since the U.S. Open.

It included a certain Ryder Cup captain who only recognized the faces.

'I watched it from start to finish,' Hal Sutton said Tuesday. 'What part of my body wouldn't say, 'Where was this in September?' We all knew both were capable of that. I don't know why they didn't do it together.'

Six months ago at Oakland Hills was the only time Woods and Mickelson were partners, not rivals, although it was hard to tell the difference. They stood some 20 yards apart on the first tee for the opening game at the Ryder Cup and kept their distance while losing their first two matches.

As rivals at Doral, they were brilliant.

Both made 27 birdies over four rounds on the Blue Monster.

Woods took the lead with an eagle on the 603-yard 12th hole when he hit a 3-wood that carried 290 yards. Mickelson fired back with back-to-back birdies, starting with a 3-iron from 242 yards to within 8 feet. Back and forth they went before a delirious and evenly divided gallery.

Both players deny their relationship is icy at best. Mickelson said the partnership at Oakland Hills was 'not uncomfortable at all,' but it might have looked that way because they played poorly. Woods said it their relationship was overanalyzed. Johnny Miller finally chimed in, 'It'd be great if these guys answered the questions.'

They certainly can answer some questions in the next month.

This renewed rivalry is at a crossroads heading into the first major championship of the year.

Mickelson was so sure he was going to win that some might wonder how much the loss takes out of him. He all but deified Woods on the eve of the final round, then got a gleam in his eye as he talked about how much he was looking forward to taking him on.

As well as Mickelson played, the difference at Doral came down to him missing short putts down the stretch, something that has haunted him throughout his career. He called the loss a 'great slap in the face,' and said it would only make him work harder for their next battle, the sooner the better.

What to make of Woods?

The big picture is that he shot 63-66 to rally from five shots down against the hottest player in golf. Woods still hits shots no one else can. He was 44 yards longer than Mickelson on one tee shot, and Woods was a combined 330 yards longer than Mickelson on every tee shot but the par 3s.

He made clutch putts, as always, none bigger than the 30-foot birdie that gave him the lead on the 17th.

Still, Woods has not exactly slammed the door in his last two victories.

Last month at Torrey Pines, he boldly went for the par-5 18th green with only a one-shot lead, fanned a 2-iron and was fortunate it didn't go in the water. At Doral, with a chance to apply enormous pressure, Woods came out of a 7-iron and left himself a downhill putt from 55 feet.

There are times when Woods takes a half-dozen repeated practice swings on the tee, still trying to drill into his mind the mechanics of his new swing.

Woods has had a revolving door of rivals for the last six years, although this one is unrivaled.

Vijay Singh has performed better as a rival. He is the only player who has approached Woods' dominance in the last 10 years, and he took the No. 1 ranking away from him in a head-to-head battle outside Boston last year. Woods and Singh aren't chums, but the big Fijian is not a threat to take away Woods' adulation from the fans.

Mickelson is.

Ernie Els and Woods make the most natural rivalry. The Big Easy has finished second to Woods six times, more than any other player, and eight of his 15 victories on the PGA Tour have come with Woods in the field. But it is difficult for Woods to work up any animosity inside the ropes because Els is universally liked and respected.

That's not the case with Mickelson.

Woods' emotions at Doral spoke volumes about this rivalry. While it was a dramatic duel, there was one even better five years ago at Kapalua, where Woods and Els were Nos. 1 and 2 in the world and tied for the lead going into the final round of the Mercedes Championships.

The lead changed seven times, and no one ever led by more than one shot. Both made an eagle on the last hole to force a playoff. Both made birdie on the 18th to extend it. Woods finally won with a 40-foot birdie putt that had 6 feet of break, then he watched as Els' birdie putt from 35 feet stopped an inch short of the cup.

Woods was thrilled that afternoon on Maui.

He was relieved Sunday in Miami.

There was an uppercut fist pump when Woods made the eagle on No. 12. He pursed his lips and firmly squeezed the bill of his cap to acknowledge the masses as he walked briskly off the 17th green with a one-shot lead.

When Mickelson's 30-foot chip for birdie dipped in and out of the cup on the 18th, his reaction contained as much raw emotion as his 13-inch vertical leap when he captured the Masters.

Clearly, this was a battle both players desperately wanted to win.

How they respond could shape the season.
Getty Images

Ortiz takes Web.com Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

Former Web.com Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Web.com Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Web.com Tour Player of the Year.

McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.

Getty Images

Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?

By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2018, 12:00 am

Memo to the golf gods:

If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?

Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?

It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.

With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.

It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.

We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.

We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.

Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.


CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line.  Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.

We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors. 

In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.

While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.

Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.

Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.

Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.

While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.

Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.

So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?

Getty Images

McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever

By Will GrayJanuary 15, 2018, 6:28 pm

With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.

The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.

Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.

"I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."

McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.

But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.

"I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."

Getty Images

What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 15, 2018, 6:05 pm

Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.

Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft

Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft

Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft

Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x