Statistics agree with what I am saying, incidentally. Yes, I know that statistics generally are for losers. But when you get enough of them, they at least give you an idea of the relative rankings. It appears, then, that the year 2006 - at least the first half - is as close to a tie as you can get.
Of course, sometimes an idea is skewered, too ' this year Woods has been forced to deal with the tragic illness and then the death of his father and has finished just six tournaments. Mickelson has played 11. Woods had to withdraw from one tournament with illness. And the number will stay the same after this week - neither is playing the EDS Byron Nelson.
Mickelson leads the TOUR in money won. The top four have all played the same amount of events, and Mickelson holds the edge by more than $275,000 over the No. 2 money-winner, Jim Furyk. Woods, incidentally, is No. 5 in total money.
But ' Tiger leads the TOUR by a longshot in money won per event played. Hes averaging $414,185 per event, while Mickelson is second at $294,363.
HOWEVER ' ready for lesson No. 1 in why you cant always trust statistics? ' the large disparity could be simply because Woods has played in tournaments where the average payout is greater. Six tournaments probably isnt a large enough statistical advantage to tell definitively who is the better player.
Tiger and Phil are almost identical in driving distance. Tiger averages 300.6, Phil 300.5. But Mickelson has hit almost 44 percent of his drives 300-plus yards, while Woods has hit just over 38 percent of his 300-plus. Who has an advantage here? Maybe Mickelson, but it is really too close to call.
Lets talk driving accuracy. Mickelson finds the fairway about 3 in 5 times ' 60.3 percent, which is 97th on TOUR. Thats much better than Woods, who hits the fairway only 56.5 percent of the time - way down at No. 153 on TOUR.
HOWEVER ' Tiger says this statistic is overrated because if a drive dies in the first cut, half an inch off the fairway, it still counts as being in the rough. Theres a big difference in being in the first cut, where the rough has little effect, to being in the second cut, where the high grass really affects the shot that is played. Maybe Tiger has a point. Lets look at greens hit in regulation, which is the whole point of the drive, anyway:
Mickelson is first in greens in regulation at 72.0. Tiger, true to his word, is third on TOUR at 71.2. Thats less than a percentage point difference ' virtually even.
Now lets get to a statistic where there really is a marked difference ' putting. Mickelson is No. 1 ' the best. Woods has been having a poor putting season, standing 142nd. In the category of three-putt avoidance, Tiger is even worse ' 189th.
HOWEVER ' Woods has an excellent reputation as a clutch putter in his 10-year career. Many players have said that if they only had one player to putt a 6-footer for them, they would pick Tiger. Has the illness of his father had any effect on him as he stood and tried to concentrate? Maybe - if you are looking for reasons for shabby putting stats, this could be a definite factor. But theres no question that, this year, Phil has a big edge in holing putts.
Conversely, Mickelson is way down at 183rd in sand-save percentage. The sand-save category is one of the most misleading of statistics. However, he has been in bunkers 50 times, and only saved par on 18 occasions. Undoubtedly he isnt No. 183 on TOUR, but this figure would indicate that sand play has been a problem for him ' especially for a player who leads in putting.
Woods, incidentally, ranks No. 75 from the sand, saving par 15 times in 30 tries. He averages getting the ball 10 feet, 5 inches from the pin on bunker shots ' thats No. 126 on TOUR. Mickelson gets it 9 feet, 7 inches, which is No. 90. HOWEVER, the bunkers are, of course, not the same distance from every hole. So unless we are talking about a specific hole, the distance away from the cup is basically meaningless.
Now, though, for the important stats ' Mickelson is No. 1 in birdie average while Tiger is No. 2. Neither has played the par-3s well, comparatively speaking ' Phil is No. 20 on TOUR, Tiger is No. 125. But Mickelson is No. 1 in below-par figures on par 5s, No. 2 on par 4s. Tiger is No. 5 and No. 4, respectively.
Scoring average ' another important statistic. Phil leads the TOUR at 69.41. Tiger stands third at 69.62. Mickelson would be even better, except they have a fourth round in these tournaments. His fourth-round scoring average is 71.10. Along with a 65, a 66 and two 67s, hes also thrown in a 77, two 74s and two 73s.
Most important of all, though, is the number of wins. Mickelson has two. Tiger has, uh, lets see ' two!
The two have played in the same tournament five times. Woods won the Buick Invitational while Mickelson finished T8; both reached the quarterfinals of the WGC-Accenture Match Play; Tiger won at Doral while Phil was T12; Phil finished T14 at The Players, Tiger T22; and Mickelson won the major, the Masters, while Woods finished T3.
Again, statistics are oftentimes meaningless when taken one-by-one. HOWEVER, taken on the whole, they often let a glimmer of light in on the participants. They do not show much of an over-all difference, though, in these two. Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, or Tiger and Phil they are Nos. 1 and 1A on the PGA TOUR this year.
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