Sunday, March 06, 2005

Never In Doubt

Phil Mickelson has had a fast start this year on the PGA tour. He won his first two events in pretty dominating fashion, and he led after the first three rounds of his third stroke play tournament, the Ford Championship. Only one obstacle stood between Mickelson and his third win of the season: Tiger Woods.

Phil and Tiger have quite a history. They do not like each other, and each has given only sparing respect to the other publicly. They forced smiles when Hal Sutton made the moronic move of pairing them together twice in the last Ryder Cup, then lost both matches.

And another thing. Tiger owns Phil.

I have played competitive golf for 25 years, and some match ups go the same way every time. Both players know it on the first tee, and it is confirmed each time on the 18th green. As well as Phil has played during the last year, he probably knew deep down he would not hold his lead today.

Paired with Phil and two shots back at the start of today's final round, Tiger started fast with birdies on three of his first eight holes. Through 12 holes, Tiger had a two shot lead, and the tournament was over. Even as Phil tried valiantly to stay in the match, briefly attaining a tie, I knew he was only narrowing the final margin.

Tiger birdied 17 to take the lead for good, then made a tough par on 18 to seal the victory. Tiger became the #1 player in the world again with the victory, even though he has played well below his standard for most of the last two years, the measuring period for world rankings.

If Tiger could play Phil Mickelson every week, he would be #1 the rest of his life.


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