Mickelson routing Tiger just one round, not a trend

By Jason SobelFebruary 14, 2012, 6:50 pm

Phil Mickelson thumped Tiger Woods in their head-to-head matchup at Pebble Beach on Sunday. Smoked him. Whooped him. Stepped on his neck and kept on walking. 

It was so bad that Phil could have spotted Tiger five a side and still come out on top.

You already knew that, though. The big question now is: What does it mean going forward?

My answer: Absolutely nothing.

This isn’t to take anything away from Mickelson’s ferocious final round of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, during which he not only posted a flawless 8-under 64 to win his 40th career title, but did so with his career-long nemesis standing on the other side of the tee box.

High ratings for Tiger-Phil showdown

Woods playing Honda Classic

Nor is it to excuse Woods’ surprisingly uncharacteristic performance in the same arena, as he posted a 3-over 75, the highest score of any player in the eventual top 40 on the leaderboard, thanks to five missed putts inside 6 feet.

It’s just that I don’t see how one round portends the fate of two players over the remainder of this season. I don’t think the aftereffects will linger for each guy for months on end.

I know, I know. This is the Internet. Next to purchasing airline tickets and checking out bikini models, knee-jerk reactions are what this information superhighway does best.

There’s no reason to believe, though, that in Mickelson’s 21st season and Woods’ 17th each will suddenly and indefinitely inherit a new persona all because of one round of golf together. It was, after all, the 29th time they’d competed together in an official PGA Tour event, with Woods holding a minuscule 13-12-4 advantage. Each has witnessed the other find success without suffering lasting effects. This won’t be any different.

I’ve already read some opinions that claim because Mickelson was clearly the best player in the field this past weekend, it will extrapolate beyond this singular instance, springboarding him to greater heights throughout this season and beyond.

Let’s remember, though, that Lefty opened his campaign with three lackluster results, leading to some self-doubt prior to last week. His game looked superb during practice sessions, but wasn’t carrying over to competition. After winning at Pebble for the fourth time in his career, Mickelson confided, “I started to wonder if I'm going to be able to bring it to the golf course.”

Don’t mistake this for a lack of confidence in his abilities. Far from it, actually. Mickelson can win again this season. Heck, he can win the Masters again. Or finally take the U.S. Open. He can be Player of the Year for the first time ever.

Whatever happens, though, will be further isolated incidents rather than an extension of his early-season success. Though he feeds off momentum within tournaments like no other upper-echelon player today, Phil has ironically never needed momentum on a week-to-week basis.

What I mean by that is some players need to build a pattern of strong performances before winning. You’ll see a guy finish 20th, then 15th, then 10th, then fifth and, finally, after knocking on the door for a month, he’ll break through for that long-awaited title.

Mickelson is an anomaly, though, in that his results have never suggested impending success or failure. He’s just as likely to follow a missed cut with a win as he is to follow a win with a missed cut. The weather on the Monterey Peninsula is easier to predict than his victories. And that’s saying something.

It’s been easier to predict Woods’ success over the course of his career, simply because until two years ago, that was all he’d known. He’s now made 23 appearances on the PGA Tour without a win – his longest such streak since turning professional.

That winless period may end with his next start, which will come at next week’s WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. Or it may continue for weeks, months or even the whole season.

Just as with Mickelson, though, Woods’ future isn’t dependent upon what happened in the final round of his first U.S.-based event of the year. Despite what revisionist history may lead us to believe, he never won every tournament he entered – or even half of 'em. Despite claiming 71 career victories, Tiger has also endured his share of heartaches on the course, many of which have come in bigger events than this one.

If anything, Woods should take some confidence from his first three rounds at Pebble Beach. He hit the ball flawlessly off the tee for two days and displayed some very proficient iron play. In the third round, his ball-striking wasn’t as solid, but his putting stroke was sublime.

It was presumed prior to the final stanza that he might be able to put it all together in that Sunday matchup; instead, nothing worked. But Woods should approach his next start armed with the knowledge that at different times, each part of his game was firing on all cylinders.

That should serve as another reminder that things often change not only on a tournament-by-tournament basis, but day-by-day. Phil Mickelson’s thumping of Tiger Woods should be remembered as one of the greatest days in the career of the former and one of the ugliest in the career of the latter. As we’ve learned in the past, though, it shouldn’t portend the future for either one.

Getty Images

Watch: Moore does impressions of Tiger, Poults, Bubba

By Grill Room TeamJuly 16, 2018, 10:36 pm
Getty Images

Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 5:15 pm

Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.

Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.

Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.

Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:

12/1: Dustin Johnson

16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose

20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed

40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton

50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick

60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson

80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele

100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen

Getty Images

Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.

Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.

Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.

Updated Official World Golf Ranking

There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.

There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.

John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.

Getty Images

Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.

Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.

Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”

Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.

“I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”

But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.

“I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”