Tiger Looked Like He Had a Boulder on His Back at Pebble!
On an extremely chilly day in California, Phil Mickelson was the man with the triumphant smile as he came from six shots behind to win for the fourth time at Pebble Beach. Yes, there were many who were watching for Tiger to be the one to finally come back to his game and find himself sitting on the pinnacle of success but…that just wasn’t about to happen. And the emotion that Tiger showed could be seen as utter defeat, or a look at a man who will continue to try resurrecting his glory days.
This is certainly not a poor sport, by any means. In fact, Tiger’s red shirt could be seen by all the fans and news cameras as he was among the very first people to congratulate Mickelson on his superb showing. Mickelson closed it all with an 8-under 64, not only edging Woods out but annihilating him by nine shots in a ‘Billy The Kid-type’ duel where the Sheriff’s gun simply got jammed.
Mickelson was extremely complimentary, almost giving Tiger the accolades for being the one and only golfer who challenges him on the green. In his words, Mickelson remarked: “I just feel very inspired when I play with him. He brings out some of my best golf. I hope that he continues to play better and better, and I hope that he and I have a chance to play together more in the final rounds.”
Well, he may get his chance, but the slight meltdown that Tiger registered on the course makes it seem like he’s a long way off of that ‘perfect game.’ Woods was only one shot out of the lead on the sixth hole after the leader, Charlie Wi, seemed to also have a meltdown. With a birdie – the first he’s had in the final round – three straight bogeys, and starting with a three-putt from eighteen-feet on the par-3 seventh, Tiger had one of the most miserable days of his golfing career. Finishing with yet another three-putt on the 18th for a score of seventy-five, Tiger still voiced the fact that he felt as if he was getting closer with each game he lost, to play the game he really wants to play.
Coming from Woods, he claimed that: “I didn’t hit it as bad as the score indicated, but I putted awful. As good as I felt on the greens yesterday, I felt bad today. Anything I tried to do wasn’t working. Consequently, I made a ton of mistakes on the green.”
As the wind was knocked out of Tiger, the same breath seemed to enter Mickelson’s lungs as he went from six shots behind to a two-shot lead on the par-5 sixth hole. He attempted – and made – a twenty-foot eagle putt after changing his line-up when Dallas Cowboys quarterback, Tony Romo, (who was playing as Tiger’s amateur partner), missed from a similar line.
Woods did lead a bunker shot for birdie on the twelfth hole, but just as momentum seemed like it could be building, the whirlwind that was Mickelson completed a thirty-foot par putt. At that point, basically, Tiger Woods was completely out of the limelight and out of Mickelson’s way as the man went on to make a forty-foot par putt on the 15th hole to keep a three-shot lead. From there…not one player could touch him.
This was one of the more emotional victories for Mickelson, he said. He was having some real doubts in the last couple of weeks with his poor scores and the way his shots were getting worse and worse all the time. Although he’d had great practice sessions, Mickelson said that he began to wonder if he was going to be able to bring it to the golf course when he needed to. In essence, Mickelson’s confidence is all built back up, with the other side of the spectrum being the Tiger – whose spirit seems to be falling.
Apparently it also helps to have a caddie giving you a pep talk. Jim “Bones” Mackay plays that part for Mickelson, and all he needed to do was get into the player’s ear and tell him: “Let’s get aggressive and make birdie; we need one more here.” According to Mickelson that’s all he really needed as his game turned on a dime into an aggressive match that involved birdies and a whole lot of perfect putts.
What was the biggest shocker for fans? When Tiger Woods actually fell apart. This man, who is still seen in most eyes as the ‘best of the best’ and once unbeatable on his very worst day, looked for a while as if his game had improved. It looked as if the fates were smiling, and all the good things he’d done over the past few months were all combining, as he looked ready to break through after a 67 in the third round. But, it just never happened.
If you think back in history, Woods used to own Mickelson outright. But in 2007, at the Deutsche Bank Championship, Mickelson posted the better score when playing in the same group as Woods in the final round. Now Mickelson has won three of those tournaments, although he and Tiger have yet to be in the final group on any of those occasions.
For those who don’t know, on the PGA Tour where there can only be one winner each week, losing is definitely a part of every golfer’s world. However, this particular showing for Woods at Pebble Beach seemed much more debilitating for a career. Perhaps it was because after three extremely impressive rounds, the scene actually looked as if it was set and ready for Tiger Woods to smile, wave, and be back on top – ending his almost thirty-month winless journey on the PGA Tour. Instead, Tiger almost looked as if he were a ‘brand new professional golfer’ – like he was scared, instead of the celebrity he’s gained over the past decade. Having five bogeys in the middle of his round, Tiger certainly didn’t seem like a man who was attempting to win his 72nd round.
What was really odd, perhaps, was the fact that Mickelson was the one really excited about Tiger’s future, and believes that his rival’s comeback is just on the horizon. As he stated: “I know the score wasn’t what he wanted, and I know he didn’t putt the way he wanted to, but you could tell that he’s really close. And all it takes is one week.”
And that, in a nutshell, is true. When it comes to the PGA tour all it does take is one Sunday to show the world that you are once again the best at what you do. And, whether people like him or not, Tiger Woods was the owner of many of those Sundays – and he could just be again.
Until Next Time, Everybody.