Tiger versus Phil - COPIED

By Rex HoggardJuly 9, 2009, 4:00 pm
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AUGUSTA , Ga. ' Jack had Arnie who begat Tom. The Red Sox have the Yankees. Nadal has Federer. Britney had Kevin.
 
It is the way of life, every alpha hurtling head-long toward its omega, the inevitable clashes completing the circle. But life, at least not the version that is played between the ropes on Sunday at major championships, doesnt follow a Star Wars script. At least not yet.
 
As much as we pine for a Tiger Woods vs. Phil Mickelson title bout this Sunday at Augusta National, the odds and history ' and every bookmaker with an ounce of common sense ' have another plan.
2008 US Open
Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson walk on the first green during the first round of the 2008 U.S. Open. (Getty Images)

Still more than 24 hours from the opening tee ball at the Masters and the rivalry talk has already reached a crescendo. And why shouldnt it?
 
Woods looks as imposing on two good legs as he did on one the last time he made a Grand Slam cameo nearly 10 months ago at Torrey Pines. Along the way he added a pair of respectable rehab starts in Tucson and Doral and another walk-off at Bay Hill to prove a point.
 
Mickelson has been just as brilliant, if not his signature combustible, in his two victories that included a Doral finish that was as much a testament to his determination as it was to modern medicine.
 
But its a collision course only if the waters contain just two ships.
 
We may covet the great Tiger-Lefty Sunday shootout, but the odds are probably better for a Van Halen reunion tour.
 
Its happened twice in a major, which, for the sake of historical arguments, is the only litmus test that counts. At the 1997 PGA Championship, both shot 75, both tied for 29th. Hardly the stuff of legend. At the 2001 Masters, Woods started with a one-shot lead on Mickelson and won the tournament, with Mickelson finishing three shots behind.
 
Theyve shared space on the same major leaderboard on Sunday, most notably at the 2006 Masters and 05 PGA Championship, but never nose-to-nose. Thats when it counts because that is when history is made.
 
I would love to be in the same group as him, if we are in the final group, Mickelson smiled. I dont want to be third off.
 
Woods, ever the pragmatist, is less concerned with a rival than he is results. Truth is he doesnt even rank Mickelson his primary rival over the years.
 
I would say the person Ive gone head-to-head with the most is Ernie (Els), Woods said.
 
Woods comment wasnt intended as a slight, only fact. As much as the machine would savor a Woods-Mickelson duel, to use a Georgia axiom, that dog just doesnt hunt.
 
Its nobodys fault, just the nature of a game that is played between the ears and between the gallery ropes, not nose to nose.
 
It is not like tennis where you have constant head-to-head matches, Mickelson said. You are always playing against the course and playing stroke play. Its funny how at the Match Play you feel a little bit more . . . confrontational.
 
There it is, you want a top card that features Ali and Frazier you convert every Grand Slam event to match play and relegate the 142 other odd professionals to the B flight. But thats not going to happen, nor should it.
 
In some ways history clouds the idea, if not the practice, of a great rivalry. We rehash the legendary rivalries of the past all the while ignoring the accomplishments of the players who were not among the Big Three.
 
We had a great group of guys, eight or 10, who no matter what tournament you played you knew you had to play great golf to win, Greg Norman said. What I see now is not eight or 10 guys, but two or three that you have to beat.
 
If history is any guideline, there simply isnt enough mojo in the cosmic tumblers to suggest a 1 vs. 2 Sunday finish is in the making.
 
Thats not to say a Woods-Mickelson Sunday duel wouldnt be the defining moment for both players careers, but not because they are currently ranked atop the World Golf Ranking.
 
No, a mano-e-mano bout would resonate because of what both players represent ' Woods, the tactician with the extra gear, against Mickelson, whose creativity and natural ability is sometimes overshadowed by an over-aggressive impulse.
 
Phil can come with 72 holes of the most unbelievable golf anyone in the world can play. When hes on, hes on, said Geoff Ogilvy, one of the most insightful players in the game. He can have periods where hes unbelievable, but he can also have periods where hes completely off the map. With Tiger, the intimidation is you know that its going to happen. You know hes going to play well.
 
Perhaps therein lies our desire for a true showdown. Right brain takes on left brain in an ultimate psychological clash. Its not a collision of the worlds best so much as it is the battle within. We all have a little Woods and Mickelson tucked neatly inside our psyche. Seeing it in action on HDTV with the most manicured 18 holes in the game as a backdrop would simply be the masterpiece of a generation.
 
Chances are Woods vs. Mickelson is not going to happen, and maybe thats OK. But it would be something.
 
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    Tiger's checklist: How he can contend at Augusta

    By Ryan LavnerFebruary 21, 2018, 8:31 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Augusta is already on the minds of most players here at the Honda Classic, and that includes the only one in the field with four green jackets.

    Yes, Tiger Woods has been talking about the Masters ever since he started this latest comeback at Torrey Pines. These three months are all about trying to build momentum for the year’s first major.

    Woods hasn’t revealed his schedule past this week, but his options are limited. He’s a good bet to play at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where he has won eight times, but adding another start would be a departure from the norm. He’s not eligible for the two World Golf Championship events, in Mexico and Austin, and he has never played the Valspar Championship or the Houston Open.

    So there’s a greater sense of urgency this week at PGA National, which is realistically one of his final tune-ups.

    How will Woods know if he’s ready to contend at Augusta? Here’s his pre-Masters checklist:

    1. Stay healthy

    So far, so good, as Woods tries to resume a normal playing schedule following four back surgeries since 2014. Though he vowed to learn from his past mistakes and not push himself, it was a promising sign that Woods felt strong enough to sign up for the Honda, the second of back-to-back starts on separate coasts.

    Another reason for optimism on the health front: The soreness that Woods felt after his season opener at Torrey Pines wasn’t related to his surgically repaired back. No, what ached most were his feet – he wasn’t used to walking 72 holes on hilly terrain.

    Woods is stiffer than normal, but that’s to be expected. His back is fused.

    2. Figure out his driver

    Augusta National is more forgiving off the tee than most major courses, putting more of a premium on approach shots and recoveries.


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    That’s good news for Woods, who has yet to find a reliable tee shot. Clearly, he is most comfortable playing a fade and wants to take the left side of the course out of play, but in competition he’s been plagued by a two-way miss.

    In two starts this year, Woods has hit only 36 percent of the fairways, no matter if he was using driver, fairway wood or long iron.

    Unfortunately, Woods is unlikely to gain any significant insight into his driver play this week. PGA National’s Champion Course isn’t overly long, but there is water on 15 of the 18 holes. As a result, he said he likely will hit driver only four times a round, maybe five, and otherwise rely on his 3-wood and 2-iron. 

    Said Rory McIlroy: “Being conservative off the tee is something that you have to do here to play well.”

    That won’t be the case at Augusta.

    3. Clean up his iron play

    As wayward as Woods has been off the tee, his iron play hasn’t impressed, either.

    At Riviera, he hit only 16 greens in regulation – his fewest in a Tour event as a professional. Of course, Woods’ chances of hitting the green are reduced when he’s playing from the thick rough, sand and trees, but he also misfired on six of the eight par 3s.

    Even when Woods does find the green, he’s not close enough to the hole. Had he played enough rounds to qualify, his proximity to the hole (39 feet, 7 inches) would rank 161st on Tour.

    That won’t be good enough at Augusta, where distance control and precision are paramount.

    Perhaps that’s why Justin Thomas said last week what many of us were thinking: “I would say he’s a pretty good ways away.”

    4. Get into contention somewhere

    As much as he would have liked to pick off a win on the West Coast, Woods said that it’s not a prerequisite to have a chance at the Masters. He cited 2010, when he tied for fourth despite taking four months off after the fallout from his scandal.

    In reality, though, there hasn’t been an out-of-nowhere Masters champion since Charl Schwartzel in 2011. Since then, every player who eventually donned the green jacket either already had a win that year or at least a top-3 finish worldwide.

    “I would like to play well,” Woods said. “I would like to win golf tournaments leading into it. The years I’ve won there, I’ve played really well early.”

    Indeed, he had at least one win in all of the years he went on to win the Masters (1997, 2000, ’01, ’05). Throw in the fact that Woods is nearly five years removed from his last Tour title, and it’s reasonable to believe that he at least needs to get himself into contention before he can seriously entertain winning another major.

    And so that’s why he’s here at the Honda, trying to find his game with seven weeks to go. 

    “It’s tournament reps,” he said, “and I need tournament reps.”

    Add that to the rest of his pre-Masters checklist.

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    Players winner to get 3-year exemption into PGA

    By Rex HoggardFebruary 21, 2018, 8:01 pm

    Although The Players isn’t golf’s fifth major, it received a boost in that direction this week.

    The PGA of America has adjusted its criteria for eligibility into the PGA Championship, extending an exemption for the winner of The Players to three years.

    According to an official with the PGA of America, the association felt the winner of The Players deserved more than a single-year exemption, which had been the case, and the move is consistent with how the PGA Tour’s annual flagship event is treated by the other majors.

    Winners of The Players were already exempt for three years into the Masters, U.S. Open and The Open Championship.

    The change will begin with this year’s PGA Championship.

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    Thomas: Playing in front of Tiger even more chaotic

    By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:52 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Justin Thomas may be going from the frying pan to the fire of Tiger Woods’ pairings.

    Translation: He’s going from being grouped with Woods last week in the first two rounds at the Genesis Open to being grouped directly in front of Woods this week at the Honda Classic.

    “Which might be even worse than playing with him,” Thomas said Wednesday.

    Typically, the pairing in front of Woods deals with a lot of gallery movement, with fans racing ahead to get in position to see Woods’ next shot.

    Thomas was quoted after two rounds with Tiger at Riviera saying fans “got a little out of hand,” and saying it’s disappointing some golf fans today think it’s “so amusing to yell and all that stuff while we’re trying to hit shots.”

    With 200,000 fans expected this week at the Honda Classic, and with the Goslings Bear Trap pavilion setting a party mood at the 16th green and 17th tee, that portion of the course figures to be quite lively at PGA National.


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    Thomas was asked about that.

    “I touched on this a little bit last week,” Thomas said. “I think it got blown out of proportion, was just taken out of context, and worded differently than how I said it or meant it.

    “I love the fans. The fans are what I hope to have a lot of, what all of us hope to have a lot of. We want them cheering us on. But it's those certain fans that are choosing to yell at the wrong times, or just saying stuff that's completely inappropriate.”

    Thomas said it’s more than ill-timed shouts. It’s the nature of some things being said.

    “It's one thing if it's just you and I talking, but when you're around kids, when you're around women, when you're around families, or just around people in general, some of the stuff they are saying to us is just extremely inappropriate,” he said. “There’s really no place for it anywhere, especially on a golf course.

    “I feel like golf is pretty well known as a classy sport, not that other sports aren't, but it has that reputation.”

    Thomas said the nature of the 17th hole at PGA National’s Champion Course makes it a more difficult tee shot than the raucous 16th at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Typically, players like to hear fans get into the action before or after they hit shots. Ill-timed bluster, however, makes a shot like the one at Honda’s 17th even tougher.

    “That hole is hard enough,” Thomas said. “I don't need someone yelling in my ear on my backswing that I'm going to hit it in the water, to make it any harder. I hope it gets better, just for the sake of the game. That's not helping anything. That's not helping grow the game.”

    Those who follow golf know an ill-timed shout in a player’s backswing is different than anything a fan says at a football, basketball or baseball game. An ill-timed comment in a backswing has a greater effect on the outcome of a competition.

    “Just in terms of how much money we're playing for, how many points we're playing for ... this is our jobs out here, and you hate to somehow see something that a fan does, or something that they yell, influence something that affects [a player’s] job,” Thomas said.

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    Rory: Phil said RC task force just copied Europe

    By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:21 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Playing the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am two weeks ago, Rory McIlroy quizzed Phil Mickelson about what the Americans got out of the U.S. Ryder Cup task force’s overhaul.

    McIlroy and Mickelson were paired together at Pebble Beach.

    “Basically, all they are doing is copying what the Europeans have done,” McIlroy said.  “That's what he said.”

    The Europeans claimed their sixth of seven Ryder Cups with their victory at Gleneagles in 2014. That brought about a sea change in the way the United States approached the Ryder Cup. Mickelson called out the tactics in Gleneagles of captain Tom Watson, who was outmaneuvered by European captain Paul McGinley.


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    The Americans defeated Europe at Hazeltine two years ago with that new European model.

    “He said the first thing they did in that task force was Phil played a video, a 12-minute video of Paul McGinley to all of them,” McIlroy said. “So, they are copying what we do, and it's working for them. It's more cohesive, and the team and the core of that team are more in control of what they are doing, instead of the PGA of America recruiting and someone telling them what to do.”