Tiger versus Phil

By Rex HoggardApril 7, 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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    The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros

    By Phil BlackmarJanuary 20, 2018, 1:24 am

    Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.

    Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.

    I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.

    One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.

    So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?

    You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?

    Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?

    I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.

    This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.

    Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:

    On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.

    The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:

    “What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”

    Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.

    Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.

    Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.

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    Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 20, 2018, 12:47 am

    Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.

    Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.

    In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.

    Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.

    After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth. 

    Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation. 

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    Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 20, 2018, 12:36 am

    Jon Rahm didn’t strike the ball as purely Friday as he did during his opening round at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

    He still managed a 5-under 67 that put him just one shot off the lead heading into the weekend.

    “I expected myself to go to the range (this morning) and keep flushing everything like I did yesterday,” said Rahm, who shot a career-low 62 at La Quinta on Thursday. “Everything was just a little bit off. It was just one of those days.”


    Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


    After going bogey-free on Thursday, Rahm mixed four birdies and two bogeys over his opening six holes. He managed to settle down around the turn, then made two birdies on his final three holes to move within one shot of Andrew Landry (65).

    Rahm has missed only five greens through two rounds and sits at 15-under 129. 

    The 23-year-old Spaniard won in Dubai to end the year and opened 2018 with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He needs a top-6 finish or better this week to supplant Jordan Spieth as the No. 2 player in the world.

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    Landry stays hot, leads desert shootout at CareerBuilder

    By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 12:35 am

    LA QUINTA, Calif. – 

    Andrew Landry topped the crowded CareerBuilder Challenge leaderboard after another low-scoring day in the sunny Coachella Valley.

    Landry shot a 7-under 65 on Thursday on PGA West's Jack Nicklaus Tournament Course to reach 16 under. He opened with a 63 on Thursday at La Quinta Country Club.

    ''Wind was down again,'' Landry said. ''It's like a dome out here.''

    Jon Rahm, the first-round leader after a 62 at La Quinta, was a stroke back. He had two early bogeys in a 67 on the Nicklaus layout.

    ''It's tough to come back because I feel like I expected myself to go to the range and keep just flushing everything like I did yesterday,'' Rahm said. ''Everything was just a little bit off.''

    Jason Kokrak was 14 under after a 67 at Nicklaus. Two-time major champion Zach Johnson was 13 under along with Michael Kim and Martin Piller. Johnson had a 64 at Nicklaus.


    Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


    Landry, Rahm, Kokrak and Johnson will finish the rotation Saturday at PGA West's Stadium Course, also the site of the final round.

    ''You need to hit it a lot more accurate off the tee because being in the fairway is a lot more important,'' Rahm said about the Pete Dye-designed Stadium Course, a layout the former Arizona State player likened to the Dye-designed Karsten course on the school's campus. ''With the small greens, you have water in play. You need to be more precise. Clearly the hardest golf course.''

    Landry pointed to the Saturday forecast.

    ''I think the wind's supposed to be up like 10 to 20 mph or something, so I know that golf course can get a little mean,'' Landry said. ''Especially, those last three or four holes.''

    The 30-year-old former Arkansas player had five birdies in a six-hole stretch on the back nine. After winning his second Web.com Tour title last year, he had two top-10 finishes in October and November at the start the PGA Tour season.

    ''We're in a good spot right now,'' Landry said. ''I played two good rounds of golf, bogey-free both times, and it's just nice to be able to hit a lot of good quality shots and get rewarded when you're making good putts.''

    Rahm had four birdies and the two bogeys on his first six holes. He short-sided himself in the left bunker on the par-3 12th for his first bogey of the week and three-putted the par-4 14th – pulling a 3-footer and loudly asking ''What?'' – to drop another stroke.

    ''A couple of those bad swings cost me,'' Rahm said.

    The top-ranked player in the field at No. 3 in the world, Rahm made his first par of the day on the par-4 16th and followed with five more before birdieing the par-5 fourth. The 23-year-old Spaniard also birdied the par-5 seventh and par-3 eighth.

    ''I had close birdie putts over the last four holes and made two of them, so I think that kind of clicked,'' said Rahm, set to defend his title next week at Torrey Pines.

    He has played the par 5s in 9 under with an eagle and seven birdies.

    Johnson has taken a relaxed approach to the week, cutting his practice to two nine-hole rounds on the Stadium Course.

    ''I'm not saying that's why I'm playing well, but I took it really chill and the golf courses haven't changed,'' Johnson said. ''La Quinta's still really pure, right out in front of you, as is the Nicklaus.''

    Playing partner Phil Mickelson followed his opening 70 at La Quinta with a 68 at Nicklaus to get to 6 under. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer is playing his first tournament of since late October.

    ''The scores obviously aren't what I want, but it's pretty close and I feel good about my game,'' Mickelson said. ''I feel like this is a great place to start the year and build a foundation for my game. It's easy to identify the strengths and weaknesses. My iron play has been poor relative to the standards that I have. My driving has been above average.''

    Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on a sponsor exemption, had a 70 at Nicklaus to match Mickelson at 6 under. The Southern California recruit is playing his first PGA Tour event. He tied for 65th in the Australian Open in November in his first start in a professional tournament.