|Phil Mickelson (Courtesy of Ed via Flickr)|
But did any longtime observer of this game ever think Phil Mickelson would own Tiger Woods on Sunday?
I didn’t see it coming. Then again, the last few years have dished out more surprises than Adele has Grammys.
CBSSports.com’s Senior Golf Columnist Steve Elling may have said it best. “Being a complete adrenaline junkie,” Elling wrote, “playing with Woods is like sticking his [Mickelson’s] tongue in a light socket.”
Phil is 8-3-1 against Tiger in their last dozen head-to-head duels. As Elling reported, the turnaround came in 2007 when Butch Harmon, Tiger’s former swing coach, let Phil in on Tiger’s mind games. Things haven’t been the same since.
Mickelson took charge early in the final round at Pebble. He made three birdies and an eagle in the first six holes and never looked back. Third-round leader Charlie Wi, in search of his first PGA Tour win, stumbled out of the gate with a double bogey at the 1st hole and carded a 3-over 39 on the opening nine. Wi fought back with four birdies, but it was too late.
The par-3 12th hole told Sunday’s story. Tiger willed a bunker shot into the hole for a birdie. Fist pump. Low five with amateur partner Tony Romo. Then Phil dropped a 30-footer for a heroic par. Game, set and match to Mickelson.
Sunday’s victory was No. 40 for the 41-year-old. Nice symmetry. The aging arthritic golfer still has game and perhaps a few more wins in him. Nothing makes you feel young like seeing the ball go in the hole.
“I just feel like I’m putting like I did when I was a kid,” Lefty said, “without the thoughts and the mind clutter.”
It’s just the opposite for Tiger, at least on Sundays. His final-round 75 included numerous short misses. Forget the swing. He needs to clean up the putting. For all the talk about his long game, it was the immaculate putting that propelled Tiger’s assault on the record books. Now it may be the thing that keeps him out of them.