Phil made a negative comment about Tigers Nike equipment a couple of years back, and Tiger was undoubtedly miffed. The remark was probably unnecessary, and Tiger duly noted the slur. Mickelson issued the highest compliment at the same time however, saying that Woods is the greatest of players to be able to win while using inferior equipment. So which remark remained in Tigers memory the longest ' the part about being a great player or the part about the poor equipment ' is probably the part which shapes Tigers assessment of Phil today.
Or ' maybe it doesnt. Maybe the two have had other private conversations which have had an impact, either positively or negatively. Maybe they have observed something from afar in each other which influenced their opinion. The point is, I dont know, and neither does any other golf writer. All we know is what they tell us. And what they tell us is that, while neither one says the other is his best friend, there is no animosity between them.
Woods and Mickelson play the first two rounds of the PGA Championship in the company of one another, along with Geoff Ogilvy. Undoubtedly there will be millions of amateur psychologists who will be trying to interpret every move, read every bit of body language, to get a read on the real story. And they are probably going to a read a story which simply isnt there.
Ogilvy was asked about their relationship in a news conference Tuesday. And he admitted that he is in the same boat as millions of viewers ' very curious.
It'll be interesting to see how they get along with each other, he said. I don't know, that's for you guys. I don't know, either. I've never played together with them both at the same time. I know them both well enough and I've played with them a few times, so it'll be interesting.
Tiger has just one request ' dont try to read anything into what you might see, or not see, on the golf course.
Sometimes I talk, sometimes I don't, Tiger said. Sometimes I'm in the mood to talk, sometimes I'm not going to say a word even if my best friend is out there. You're there to win a tournament. We can always go out for a beer later, but I'm trying to handle my business out there.
Woods went on to explain that he rarely gets chummy with ANYBODY on the golf course during a major, including his caddie. And that includes his best buddy on the tour, Mark OMeara. When they are paired, Tiger says their conversation is limited to, Heres your (score)card.
And, for those busybodies who just have to know, Woods says there is no Tiger-Phil grudge.
Phil and I are competitors, he explained. We've gotten to know each other over the years by being on the teams, Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup teams, and we're fine.
Much has been made over a Ping-Pong match the two played against each other at The Presidents Cup last year.
Yeah, it was fun, said Tiger. We go at it every year when we're on these teams, whether it's Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup. It's usually a few guys that are vying for who's going to be the champion of the week: Kenny Perry, DiMarco and myself and Phil. But Phil and I went at it quite a few times, too. We had fun.
For his part, Mickelson feels like this is a special time in golf history, and he is not at all sorry that hes spent most of his career playing in the Tiger Woods era.
I love the chance to compete against such a great competitor, he said. He's one of the best players of all time - if not the best. It's been a fun challenge for me and the other guys to play against him, and he's also pushed me to work harder and get better and achieve levels of success I may not have achieved, had he not been there pushing me.
And, Phil says every golfer owes Woods a debt of gratitude with every paycheck they receive, with every autograph they sign. Golf is a much more popular sport than it would be if there were no Tiger.
No question, Mickelson says. I thank him all the time for it because he deserves it, not just for the purses but the interest in the game of golf because that leads to increased revenue opportunities off the course, companies that wouldn't be interested in golf he's helped bring to the game. So it's been beneficial for every player out here, and myself included. I thank him every chance I get.
The discussion over whether there is a real animosity between the two, though, is just a continuation of what we were told were the great grudges down through golf history. Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus supposedly were cool to each other for 20 years. The same was attributed to Byron Nelson and Ben Hogan. Lee Trevino supposedly irked several opponents with his non-stop chatter,
Was it real, or was it someones vivid imagination? Do Tiger and Phil genuinely dislike each other, or is it merely the presumption of the golf pundits that they dislike each other?
If you are in the inner-inner circle of Woods or Mickelson, you might know. For the rest of us, lets quit trying to guess.
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