More disappointing season: Tiger or Phil?


Tiger Woods is playing the Australian Open this week. Phil Mickelson is competing in the Singapore Open. Woods has played 10 times around the world in 2011 and has more injuries than top-10s. Mickelson won in Houston, but blew a chance to capture the British Open and finished outside the top 15 in the other three majors. So, who has had the more disappointing season?


Tiger Woods had a more disappointing 2011 season than Phil Mickelson, but you don’t need to know anything about these players or even the game of golf to make that assessment. Case in point:

Player A is considered one of the greatest players of all-time. At age 35, he failed to record a single victory, finished 128th on the money list and dropped from second to 58th on the Official World Golf Ranking.

Player B is considered one of the top 15-20 players of all-time. At age 41, he recorded one victory, finished 12th on the money list and dropped from fourth to 11th on the Official World Golf Ranking.

It doesn’t take a golf scholar to understand that one disappointing season was markedly more disappointing than the other. Player A is, of course, Woods, who failed to win a PGA Tour event for the second consecutive year – an eye-popping stat for a player with 71 career titles and for whom winning is the sole goal entering every start.

For Mickelson – who in the above scenario was obviously Player B – it was a disappointing season for him, but one which many other players would love to have “endured.” Woods’ campaign was undesirable even for the Tour’s rank-and-file. In fact, if one of those players had mirrored Tiger’s results, he’d be back in Q-School soon. Now that’s disappointing.


2011 will not go down as the year Phil Mickelson made his big move, but in this debate Tiger Woods must cop a no-contest plea. Sure there was injury and a new swing to digest on the fly, but in these debates the “why” really doesn’t impact the “what” in the final analysis.

For just the second time as a professional Woods failed to win in season, and other than his tie for fourth at the Masters his year was filled with more valleys than peaks.

Besides, for Lefty there was at least progress. He opened his season with a runner-up showing at Torrey Pines – his best finish at the seaside muni since 2001 – and won the Shell Houston Open. There was also his runner-up showing at the windblown British Open, his best finish there as well.

Meanwhile, Woods posted just a single top-10 finish, failed to advance to the FedEx Cup playoffs for the first time and was 128th in earnings. There was another withdrawal at The Players Championship, another prolonged stay on the “DL,” and more questions about a retooled swing that still looked uncomfortable to the eye, if not the eye of the beholder.

At best Woods’ year was incomplete, at worst it was the most disappointing.


Tiger Woods would have taken Phil Mickelson’s year in a heartbeat.

There’s your answer.

Though Mickelson isn’t having one of his better seasons, Tiger’s year would be a substantial upgrade if he sported Mickelson’s 2011 record. Mickelson won the Shell Houston Open, finished second at the Farmers Insurance Open and tied for second at the British Open. Mickelson had seven top-10 finishes in PGA Tour events. Woods made just nine PGA Tour starts with two top-10s.

Mickelson made 21 PGA Tour starts. Woods would have taken that as an upgrade if only because it would have meant his knee was healthy enough to hold up to the rigors of a full season.

After showing so much promise tying for fourth at the Masters, Woods’ season went downhill fast. The knee injury he sustained playing Augusta National derailed the rest of his year. Woods enjoyed no other highlight after the Masters.

The enduring image of Woods this year is his limping away from The Players, his ailing knee still not well enough to finish what he started there. He missed almost three months recuperating.

Woods has a chance to be remembered as the best player who ever lived, but his year was all about what still ails him. While Mickelson’s disappointed he didn’t win more, he’ll surely take his year over what Woods endured.