A battle for the ages between Tiger and Phil

By Associated PressApril 12, 2009, 4:00 pm
Bookmark and Share
AUGUSTA, Ga. ' They battled each other as though no one else was playing, and for many of those lucky enough to be at Augusta National on Easter Sunday, no one else was.
 
Every shot seemed to spark a new roar echoing through the Georgia pines, and every birdie brought new hope that this might be the most magical Masters of them all.
 
Phil Mickelson started it, but Tiger Woods wasnt about to let him finish it by himself.
 
Not with the green jacket still up for grabs. Not with Augusta National just begging to be taken.
 
Not with what this, the most personal of duels, meant to both men.
 
The record will reflect that Angel Cabrera won this Masters and the coveted green jacket that goes along with it. But anyone watching will tell you that Tiger and Phil stole the show.
Tiger Woods reacts to a missed putt on the seventh green during the final round of the 2009 Masters Tournament. (Getty Images)

The fans who streamed out of Augusta National by the hundreds even as the leaders played the back nine certainly thought so. They could have stuck around for what eventually became the first three-way playoff in 22 years, but there didnt seem much point after the thrills Woods and Mickelson provided.
 
They were the dream pairing, and they delivered more than anyone could have imagined. For the best part of four hours they gave us the kind of moments that Chad Campbell and Kenny Perry cant deliver in their entire career.
 
The patrons, as they call them here, responded by screaming in joy, high-fiving one another, and acting in very unpatronlike ways. Straining to get in on the action, they even ran from hole to hole, the most taboo of all the no-nos at the Masters.
 
They all wanted in on this action, and who could blame them. Mickelson stoked their fire by making birdies from everywhere imaginable on the front nine, and by the time Woods rolled in an eagle putt on No. 8, the game was really on.
 
Behind them somewhere, Cabrera and Perry were playing in the final group and their nerves were beginning to show. Ahead of them was a back nine filled with tantalizing possibilities of birdies, eagles, and even more.
 
How good was this? Just ask one of the men on the inside.
 
It was the most fun I ever had on a golf course, said Jim Bones Mackay, Mickelsons longtime caddie.
 
The fact that there is an undercurrent of bad blood between the two men simply added to the intrigue on this gorgeous spring day. Woods caddie, Steve Williams, said a few months earlier that he hated Mickelson, and the two players arent exactly dinner companions.
 
But this was a day for spectacular golf, not pettiness. And while they werent trading jokes inside the ropes, there was some back and forth.
 
Great shot, Woods kept saying to Mickelson.
 
Back to you, Mickelson said to Woods.
 
Mickelson set the bar high with six birdies in a seven-hole stretch on the front nine, including a miraculous shot through the trees on No. 7 that finished in kick-in range. He tied the front nine record with a 30 and stood on the 12th tee with a 9-iron in his hand, suddenly just a stroke off the lead.
 
Being Mickelson, of course, he promptly hit it in the water.
 
Most players would have collapsed right there. But Mickelson has been in a few jams in his time, and soon the game was back on.
 
Both players were closing in on the lead but still desperate for more birdies. And both had great chances for eagles on the two par-5s on the back nine, only to miss.
 
Mickelsons miss on No. 15 hurt the most. After watching Woods knock it to 15 feet he stuck it to just 4 feet and had an eagle putt to take the lead.
 
It didnt come close.
 
I just didnt trust the read and made a very tentative stroke, Mickelson said. If I had eagled 15 Im right back in the tournament.
 
The finish was anti-climatic because by then the two seemed spent. Woods bogeyed the last two holes, and Mickelson missed a short birdie on the 17th and made bogey on the final hole himself.
 
They would have needed 64s to get in the playoff, and Mickelson ended with a 67 and Woods a 68.
 
But what a blast it was while it lasted.
 
The front nine was awesome. It was really fun, Mickelson said. It was fun to have a chance on the back nine. I think thats what we always want as players.
 
Woods usually wants a little more, and that might account for the scowl on his face as he walked out of the scoring hut off the 18th green where wife, Elin was waiting, dressed appropriately in a red sweater. He hasnt won here in four years now, his longest drought at the Masters, and at times his frustration showed.
 
He hit it terrible on the driving range, and even worse on the first hole when his tee shot went way left into the ninth fairway. He was in danger of being trampled by Mickelson, being overrun by the rest of the field, and getting his ego bruised all at the same time.
 
But somehow he managed to come to the 17th tee with a slim chance to do the unthinkable.
 
I fought my swing all day and just kind of Band-Aided around and almost won the tournament with a Band-Aid swing today, Woods said.
 
Woods didnt stick around to analyze it much further. He was finished, and in no mood to watch anyone else finish.
 
Mickelson lingered a little longer, getting a hug and kiss from wife Amy underneath the huge tree on the clubhouse lawn. Soon, too, he was gone, leaving only with thoughts of what might have been.
 
They came to win, and they came up short. Someone else would wear the green jacket.
 
But as a warmup act they couldnt be beat.
 

Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - Masters Tournament
  • Getty Images

    Watch: Elvis returns, whiffs golf shot at Tiger Jam

    By Grill Room TeamMay 21, 2018, 12:18 am
    Getty Images

    Crenshaw pleased with reaction to Trinity Forest

    By Will GrayMay 21, 2018, 12:02 am

    DALLAS – Despite the tournament debut of Trinity Forest Golf Club coming to a soggy conclusion, course co-designer Ben Crenshaw is pleased with how his handiwork stood up against the field at this week’s AT&T Byron Nelson.

    Crenshaw was on property for much of the week, including Sunday when tee times were delayed by four hours as a line of storms passed through the area. While the tournament’s field lacked some star power outside of headliner Jordan Spieth, Crenshaw liked what he saw even though Mother Nature didn’t exactly cooperate.

    “We’re pleased. It’s off to a nice, quiet start, let’s say,” Crenshaw said. “The week started off very quiet with the wind. This course, we envision that you play it with a breeze. It sort of lends itself to a links style, playing firm and fast, and as you saw yesterday, when the wind got up the scores went up commensurately.”


    Full-field scores from the AT&T Byron Nelson

    AT&T Byron Nelson: Articles, photos and videos


    That assessment was shared by Spieth, a Trinity Forest member who has become the tournament’s de facto host and spent much of his week surveying his fellow players for opinions about a layout that stands out among typical Tour stops.

    “A lot of guys said, ‘It’s grown on me day to day, I really enjoyed it as a change of pace, I had a lot of fun playing this golf course.’ Those were lines guys were using this week, and it shouldn’t be reported any differently,” Spieth said. “It was an overwhelmingly positive outlook from the players that played.”

    Crenshaw didn’t bristle as tournament leaders Aaron Wise and Marc Leishman eclipsed the mark of 20 under par, noting that he and co-designer Bill Coore simply hoped to offer a “different experience” from the usual layouts players face. With one edition in the books, he hopes that a largely positive reaction from those who made the journey will help bolster the field in 2019 and beyond.

    “To me, the guys who played here this week will go over to Fort Worth, and hopefully the field at Colonial that wasn’t here would ask questions of the people who were here,” Crenshaw said. “You hope that some good word spreads.”

    Getty Images

    A. Jutanugarn wins Kingsmill playoff for 8th title

    By Associated PressMay 20, 2018, 11:32 pm

    WILLIAMSBURG, Va. – Ariya Jutanugarn birdied the second hole of a playoff Sunday to win the Kingsmill Championship for the second time in three years.

    Jutanugarn closed with a 5-under 66 to match Nasa Hataoka (67) and In Gee Chun (68) at 14-under 199.

    Jutanugarn and Hataoka both birdied the first extra hole, with Chun dropping out. Hataoka putted first on the second extra hole and missed badly before Jutanugarn rolled in a 15-footer for her eighth career victory. The 22-year-old Thai star's older sister, Moriya, won the HUGEL-JTBC Championship in Los Angeles in April for her first LPGA Tour victory


    Full-field scores from the Kingsmill Championship


    Jutanugarn started the day two shots behind Chun and had a two-shot lead before making bogey at the par-5 15th. Hataoka, playing with Chun in the final threesome, birdied No. 15 to join Jutanugarn at 14 under, and Chun made a long birdie putt on the par-3 17th to also get to 14 under.

    The tournament was cut from 72 holes to 54 when rain washed out play Saturday.

    Brooke Henderson closed with a 65 to finish a shot back. Megan Khang was fifth after her third straight 67.

    Getty Images

    Jimenez wins first Champions major at Tradition

    By Associated PressMay 20, 2018, 9:32 pm

    BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Miguel Angel Jimenez finally got to light up a victory cigar after winning a senior major championship.

    Jimenez won the Regions Tradition on Sunday for his first PGA Tour Champions major title, closing with a 2-under 70 for a three-stroke victory. He celebrated with a big embrace from fellow Spaniard and two-time Masters winner Jose Maria Olazabal, who hoisted him in the air.

    After a round of photos and speeches from local dignitaries, Jimenez finally got to break out the celebratory cigar.

    ''It's time to have a medal in my pocket and it's nice to be on the first major of the year,'' he said.

    Jimenez held or shared the lead after every round, taking a three-shot edge into the final round at Greystone Golf & Country Club. The Spaniard finished at 19-under 269 for his fifth PGA Tour Champions victory.

    ''It's been a wonderful week,'' he said. ''My game was amazing, really.''


    Full-field scores from the Regions Tradition


    Steve Stricker, Joe Durant and Gene Sauers tied for second.

    It was the third time Jimenez had entered the final round of a senior major with at least a share of the lead but the first one he has pulled out. He tied for third at the 2016 Senior British Open and for second at the 2016 U.S. Senior Open.

    Durant and Sauers finished with matching 69s, and Stricker shot 70.

    Jimenez birdied two of the final three holes including a closing putt for good measure.

    Jimenez entered the day at 17 under to tie Gil Morgan's 21-year-old Tradition record through 54 holes. He got off to a rough start with an errant tee shot into a tree-lined area on his way to a bogey, but he never lost his grip on the lead.

    Jimenez had three bogeys after making just one over the first three rounds, but easily held off his challengers late.

    His approach on No. 18 landed right in the center of the green after Stricker's shot sailed well right into the gallery. He had rebuilt a two-stroke lead with a nice birdie putt on No. 16 while Durant and Stricker each had a bogey among the final three holes to leave Jimenez with a more comfortable cushion.

    Stricker and Durant both had par on the final hole while Sauers also birdied to tie them. Durant had produced two eagles on No. 18 already in the tournament but couldn't put pressure on Jimenez with a third.

    Stricker's assessment of his own performance, including a bogey on No. 17, was that he ''made quite a few mistakes.''

    ''Just didn't take care of my ball, really,'' he said. ''I put it in some bad spots, didn't get it up and down when I had to a few times, missed a few putts. Yeah, just didn't have it really, didn't play that good, but still had a chance coming down to the end.''

    Jeff Maggert finished with a 64 and was joined at 15 under by Scott McCarron (67) and Duffy Waldorf (66).

    Jimenez made a birdie putt on No. 16 one hole after falling into a tie with Stricker with a bogey. Durant faltered, too, with a bogey on No. 16.

    ''When (Stricker) made birdie and I make a bogey on the 15th, everything's going up again very tight,'' Jimenez said. ''It's time to hole a putt on 16, for me that makes all the difference.''

    Stricker had two wins in his first four senior tour events this year and remains second on the money list. He has finished in the top five in each of his events.

    Bernhard Langer finished five strokes off the lead in his bid to become the first to win the Tradition three straight years. He shot 66-67 over the final two rounds after a slow start.