That, however, in no way should excuse the majority of Mickelson's remarks. I have no problem with Lefty making a few back-handed comments about being longer than Woods off the tee at times. If that's what he feels - let him say it. I'm sure he has flown it past Tiger a time or two, whether at the Target World Challenge where the interview was conducted in December, or perhaps in a practice round at the Ryder Cup. That's for Phillip and Eldrick to remember.
The comment that is and should really draw the attention is the 'inferior equipment' swipe. Mickelson now plays Titleist, a company Tiger formerly represented, and the manufacturer that makes Woods' 3-wood. Tiger plays Nike's irons, driver and ball.
Mickelson might feel like Nike isn't up to Titleist's standards. OK to think it. But when's the last time you heard any respected tour player 'on the record' taking divots from an equipment manufacturer's reputation? I can't think of one.
It's a no-no in a business where you never know which company's logo might appear on your shirt or hat next year or next week. Players look for equipment that works for THEM. And these days, with technology as it is, manufacturers aren't far off from one another anyway.
Each week the Darrell Survey folks survey the range and the first tee to take count of exactly how many are playing each company's equipment. And with that as a backdrop, when's the last time you saw, for instance, TaylorMade win the driver count and come out with a release saying, 'We had more players using our driver than anyone else. And with good reason - everyone else is inferior.'
It just doesn't happen. Equipment manufacturers keep to themselves for the most part, believing in what they do and recruiting players to believe they're right.
Golf is a business of making the best possible product and marketing those products successfully. Tiger Woods' irons and driver wouldn't be in his bag just because of the money he makes endorsing them. Sure, Nike pays Tiger plenty. But those clubs are noticeably different from the ones you and I can purchase on the shelf - because they are built to reflect and make the most of Tiger's outstanding ability. Same thing goes for Mickelson and his new business partner Titleist. which once made irons and a driver and ball exactly like Tiger specified.
My hunch is that Titleist joins Nike in the mood of unhappiness right now. A first-class company with a much-envied model for success, Titleist tends to keep confidence to themselves, let guys like Ernie Els spread the good word, and probably wants no part of the Nike vs. Titleist equipment comparison and the Woods vs. Mickelson result comparison that might be forthcoming. Nike is a marketing giant and the Phil (Knight) behind THAT name might just have gained more publicity because of the other Phil's (Mickelson) slip of the tongue and have more money to put forward in a year's worth of debate.
Woods is probably laughing at all of this. As if the world's undisputed best player needs anything to get him motivated?
But lets not be too quick to judge Mickelson as a misguided misfit. He admits to a great respect for Tiger's game and says his quote was 'not intended as a knock on any manufacturer.' Lefty has almost always shown himself as a responsible representative of the tour and a player who doesn't dodge the media (at least not the Golf Channel.) He talks when he wins, and he's certainly talked when he hasn't.
Mickelson's people at Gaylord Sports Management told us before Wednesday' s Golf Channel Pre-Game that Phil's about sick of it ... and might just pop off. I guess he did.
So lets give the man (Mickelson) with 21 wins on the PGA Tour a chance to keep on winning, and add a few majors, too. Perhaps then we'll really believe that one manufacturer's equipment can really make that much difference to the world's top pros.
But, while we're at it, conventional wisdom tells us to sit back and watch Tiger keep quiet about controversy like this, and let his clubs do the talking for him .... 'inferior' as some think they are. He probably can't wait.