Reciprocal Golf Problog by Peter Baumann

The Sunday Final Round at The Players

I'm going to continue going against the grain and say that Lee Westwood, although he is leading the Players Championship, will not win on Sunday afternoon. I have yet to see the look in his eyes that tells me he knows he is going to win. By the same token, Tiger's attitude this week is the worst I have ever seen in his professional career. It seems that every question he is asked, he replies with one excuse or another excuse as to why he is not preforming.

Phil Mickelson, on the other hand, can win, even though he is starting Sunday's final round from five shots back, and he has ten players in front of him. Mental attitude is everything in professional golf. In fact, I can't remember the last time I heard so many comments by the tour commentators about the mental attitude of those in contention.

Look at Rory McIlroy at Quail Hollow last week. He ran away with the tournament on Saturday and Sunday, setting a new course record by two shots on Sunday. Then he celebrated his 21st birthday Tuesday night, then missed the cut this week. Too much partying Tuesday night? I don't think Rory even drinks, does he?

The ultimate winner on Sunday will be the player who makes the most putts, and as the greens dry out from the wind, putting will be difficult. The player who puts his approach shots below the hole consistently, and then putts uphill will be the winner.

The winner at The Players has never hit his tee shot in the lake at 17, so watch to see if the wind is gusting on 17 on Sunday afternoon.
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Same problems for Tiger at The Players!

Tiger Woods had the same problems at The Players on Friday that he had on Thursday, hitting it everywhere and scrambling to save pars! He finished -3 to par after the second round, which at least should make the cut as compared to last week.

Meanwhile, Phil Mickelson teed off late on Friday. He also finished -3 after Friday's round. But unlike Tiger's current mental state, Phil has what it will take to come from nine shots back to win on Sunday, just like Rory McIlroy did last week at the Quail Hollow Championship. McIlroy celebrated his 21st birthday last Tuesday, after winning last week, only to miss the cut Friday at The Players.

What has changed from last week to this week? Mental attitude. Professional golf, just like amateur golf every Saturday morning, is all about attitude, not talent.

Lee Westwood was in the lead after Friday's round. I'm sorry, but Westwood doesn't have what it takes between the ears to win a major US tournament. He will remain close to the lead through Saturday, then on Sunday, but he will blow the lead on Sunday afternoon.

When I give a golf lesson to my students, I stress basic weight shift, and mental attitude. With those two thoughts, any amateur can play great!
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The first round of The Players Championship was interesting Thursday. I have predicted that Phil Mickelson will move into the World's Number One position this week, and that Tiger Woods will not play well. They both shot 70 yesterday, two under par.

Tiger said he was happy with his 70, because he hit it crooked, but scrambled great. Johnny Miller watched Tiger practice before the tournament , and then said Tiger needs a new swing coach, and needs to take some time off!"

Phil was not happy with his 70, because "I wasted too many shots out there today. I hit six iron on two par-5's for my second shot, and only made pars."

But it is a long time until Sunday afternoon.

Both No. 1 and No. 2 are only four shots behind the leaders. In fact, if they cut to the top 60 players and ties after Thursday's first round, which is what the PGA Tour will do on Friday afternoon, Tiger and Phil would just barely make the cut right on the number!

And no one has pulled ahead of the field. All 60 players in the top 60 are only four shots apart. Which means it is anyone's tournament at this point in time.

According to the weatherman, the weather will be the same the first three days, with mild winds blowing in the same direction. Sunday the wind is supposed to turn in the opposite direction. That might make things interesting if it happens, but since when has any weatherman correctly predicted the weather three days in advance?

Calm weather at The Players makes for a dull tee shot at 17, the island green. Perhaps that is good, because a single last second gust of wind on 17 can make or break a round, or can make or break the winner! I think I watched about two hours of golf on Thursday, and I only saw two tee shots go into the lake on 17.

That is compared to two years ago when Sergio Garcia won, including his one and only tee shot in his sudden death playoff with Paul Goydos, which started on 17. A gust of wind caught Goydos' tee shot at 17, and the playoff was over before it began! I wish the Tour would start any sudden death playoff on either 18 or 16 at The Players, so a single gust of wind doesn't determine the champion.

Most tour events start on the 18th for any sudden death playoff, and they should do so at The Players as well.

It will be interesting to see if anyone pulls away from the field in today's (Friday's) round.
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I was watching the Golf Channel yesterday (Wednesday) morning, and the tournament commentators were discussing the upcoming Players Championship that starts today. They were talking about the tournament entrants, their recent poll of viewers, and who the viewers favored to win. They chose Tiger Woods to win, with odds of 7/1. WHY?

Phil Mickelson is ranked second right now at the Players, with odds of his winning at 8/1. In my opinion, Phil should be favored to win, and not just slightly over Tiger.

If Mickelson wins this week’s tournament, which starts on Thursday, and Woods finishes outside the top five, Mickelson will become the No. 1 golfer in the world rankings, ending a five year reign for Woods.

The odds are a little closer this week than usual, but Woods is still favored to win the tournament this week. I do not understand why that is.

Woods has been given 7/1 odds to win. Other short odds to win are Mickelson (8/1), Jim Furyk (20/1), Ernie Els (22/1), and Rory McIlroy (22/1), who won last week's Quail Hollow Championship by finishing with a 62, and recording a new course record by two strokes!

Woods won this event in 2001 and finished eighth a year ago, but he finished outside the top 20 the previous two times he competed in the tournament. Woods is coming off one of the worst outings he has had as a pro, as he missed the cut in the Quail Hollow Championship.

If it was up to me, I'd give Woods odds of winning this week closer to 25/1. Like I mentioned a few days ago, I don't think Woods is over his problems with the crowds yet. I think he is still worried about his image at this time, and wants to please the crowds after what he did to his wife, Elin, more than he thinks about winning.

Late yesterday the Golf channel commentators were still talking about Tiger's chances this week. After beating around the bush all day, Nick Faldo finally answered the question about Tiger's chances of winning the Players.

"Tiger is going to have problems this week."

I agree.
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Dennis Grahovic in Germany sent me a message two days ago stating he needs to buy himself a set of golf clubs, and asked me where he should go. I am flattered, because it has been at least ten years since I quit making custom golf club sets at PROBE GOLF,

At the time we started making the best performing golf clubs in the world at PROBE GOLF, in 1986, virtually no other golf company in the world made true custom fit, and custom performing golf equipment!

Read that sentence again, because it is the absolute truth. The closest other golf company that advertised custom fitting was PING. Remember their custom lie, custom length, custom grip promotion? Would it shock you to know that PING used the same shaft for all customers, and it was a shaft that fit no one?

In golf, the harder you swing, the stiffer the shaft has to be, and the higher the Flex Point has to be. PING did not wish to inventory a dozen different shaft types, so they compromised by using their PING ZING shaft, with a low flex point. A low flex point leads to a high, less controlled shot. By tipping (cutting more off the thin end of the shaft) the shaft more, they made a stiff shafted club for hard swingers, but with a high, less-controlled shot due to the low flex point. Easier swingers, and women, need the low flex point, but not a stiff shaft, because they can't swing it hard enough!

At PROBE GOLF, we stocked over eight different steel shafts for iron sets, and the same for woods. To prove my point, here are two examples of why PROBE irons were the best performing irons in the world, "for each individual golfer's needs":

1) When I started PROBE GOLF, I was a six handicap golfer. I had played for twenty-two years, and had never had a hole-in-one. When I made myself the first PROBE iron set, with the shaft best suited to my swing, I made a hole-in-one within one month, holing a five iron on the 195-yard hole # eight at the Lake Shastina Golf Resort near Mt. Shasta, CA.

I made my second hole-in-one a month later, holing my PROBE 2-iron on #11 from 222 yards. Not exactly short par-3's.

My handicap dropped within four months to a "plus 2", two strokes better than "0". I won the Men's Club Championship nine times in twelve years, and shot as low as 65 on the par-72 Championship course.

2) In 1987 I won the Lake Shastina Amateur Championship, with 200 of northern California's top amateurs competing, by shooting 70-70, four under par. The three men who finished right behind me were playing PING Eye 2 irons. Tom, who finished second, three shots behind me, told me that hole #16 that day made all the difference. I had hit my PROBE 2-iron into the wind 209 yards to one foot from the hole for birdie. Tom had hit his PING 1-iron twice as high as my 2-iron into the front bunker (due to his low flex point shafts) and made bogey! Tom asked me over a beer in the clubhouse that afternoon to make him a set of PROBE irons. I did so, using a high flex point shaft in his set, and Tom came back the next year to win the same tournament by SIX SHOTS!

Choosing the right shaft for each customer's needs is the key to turning a so-so golfer into a great golfer! In the last ten years I have had a personal friend of mine, Joe Roland, who knows the secrets of proper fitting each customer to the proper shaft, make all custom-fit golf sets for people who come to me for a better choice of golf equipment.

Therefore, to answer Dennis Grahovic's question, for him to buy the best performing golf clubs (for his swing) he should fill out my PROBE GOLF Custom Fitting Questionnaire, and then I will confer with my friend, Joe Roland, who will build the set for Dennis. And, Dennis' cost will be about 60% of what he would spend with Nike, Taylor Made, PING, Titleist, Cobra, or any of the other name brands!

I have decided to "restart" PROBE GOLF once again, to introduce our new PROBE 20/10 inverted-shafted putter, which will outperform our PROBE 20/20 putter we introduced to the golfing world through our Gary Player infomercial in 1993, and sold over 120,000 putters at $120 each.

(Pictured above - Larry Laoretti, winner of the 1992 Senior United States Open Championship, using his PROBE Driver and PROBE 20/20 inverted-shafted putter.)

It will be fun to once again make the best performing golf equipment in the world, and the best performing putter ever designed.
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Phil to Pass Tiger as No. One!

Last November, before the world learned about Tiger Woods' extra dozen or so women, I predicted that Phil Mickelson would pass Tiger in 2010 as the world's No. One golfer. With Tiger missing the cut at Quail Hollow last Friday, and Phil's second-place finish, Phil is now close to passing Tiger.

This week's Players' Championship at Ponte Vedra Beach may just do the trick. Neither Tiger nor Phil are hitting a lot of fairways off the tee these days. But Phil has the better short game of the two, recovering from bad tee shots better than Tiger.

And as I pointed out last week, Tiger has to overcome his temper, and his concern about what the crowd thinks of him, and his temper, before he will win again.

I'll make the same comment about tempers on tour as I made last week. The PGA Tour has occasionally fined players money for cursing, or for throwing clubs, but that has never had any effect on such behavior. What is $5,000 to a multimillionaire? But tell a player he just incurred a one-stroke penalty for slamming his driver into the ground and watch his reaction!

I have played golf for 48 years, and have taught golf to kids since they were three years old. I tell them there is no room for temper on the golf course. When I consider doing business with someone new, the first thing I do is play 18 holes with them. I'll learn more about their honesty, integrity, or ability to handle adversity (temper) in thirty minutes than I'd learn in five days over a conference table.

I once entertained a golfer from Cincinnati who wanted to be my PROBE GOLF distributor in Ohio, on the Lake Shastina Golf Resort near Mt. Shasta, CA. On the seventh hole he missed a two-foot putt for par, and he threw his putter that clipped my right ear, and flew another fifty feet into the nearby water hazard! One inch closer and he might have killed me.

I told him to fly back to Ohio, that there was no room at PROBE GOLF for him.

For Tiger to get back in the graces of most attendees at this week's Players Championship. Tiger will have to concentrate on his behavior. If his behavior is on his mind, concentrating on each shot will not be on his mind. And that is all it will take for him to finish far behind the ultimate winner.

Congatulations Phil Mickelson, the Number One golfer in the world.

Tomorrow I am going to show you how to buy the best performing golf equipment you can acquire to best support your own, individual golf swing, and at about 50% off what you would pay anywhere else. I hope you catch the conversation.
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Tiger's Mental Attitude Responsible for Missing the Cut?

Tiger Woods missed his first PGA Tour cut in what, five years? He missed the cut at the Open Championship in England last July, and I already commented that I think it was his "female problems" that were responsible. I told my brother at the time that something was bothering Tiger. It was just four months before the rest of the world learned about Tiger's dozen or so extra women!

This week at Quail Hollow I think Tiger was thinking too much about how to win back the crowd by not throwing clubs or cussing too much, and not thinking enough about picturing each shot in his mind before swinging.

After he had missed the cut, the commentators were mentioning the fact that Tiger had "behaved himself" this week despite missing the cut, cussing very little and not throwing a single club. I have a feeling that his concern about his behavior and what the crowd thought/thinks of him is what was foremost on his mind, instead of concentrating on his swing.

I saw Tiger hit several poor shots on Thursday and Friday this week, and his facial expression looked like he was steaming on he inside as he smiled outwardly.

Tiger has two things he must overcome before he will appear in the winner's circle again. First and foremost is controlling his temper. I don't care how many women are on his mind, there is no room on the golf course for a temper tantrum. It is childish, and it will not allow any golfer to relax and hit a smooth shot. I would like to see the Tour impose penalty strokes to any tour player who cusses or throws or slams down a club during play.

I remember watching last Summer's Big Break on the Golf channel. I wish Pat Perez's brother had not won, because his childish behavior of slamming and throwing clubs is not something we need to see on television. It is a poor example for our children.

The second thing Tiger has to accomplish is concentration. You can't play good golf when you are worried about outside influences, such as the crowd. When he conquers the first, temper, he won't have to worry about the second, what the crowd thinks of him.

Tiger won't win again until he learns to laugh off a bad shot, and concentrate on the next shot, and not about what the guy outside the ropes is thinking.

Do you agree?
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Phil Mickelson Continues to Battle Illness!

Thursday morning Phil Mickelson woke up in a pool of his own vomit, and said it was a good omen! Why would he say such a thing? Because the last two times Mickelson woke up in his own vomit, he won that week's tournament.

While many of us simply don't go to the golf course when we are feeling under the weather, there is a lesson to be learned here. Why is it that many tour pros end up winning a tournament when they are not feeling well? For one thing, they simply go through the motions of envisioning fundamentals in their golf swing, and don't try to overpower the ball. What happens when you picture something happening in sports, and then let it happen? It happens the way we envision it if our power of positive thinking is strong enough.

Golf is played in the five inch wide spot between the ears. When properly played, golf is 90% mental, and 10% mental.

When I was 18 years old, I was playing in a Father Son Tournament with my Dad at the Lake Shastina Golf Resort at the foot of Mt. Shasta in northern California. At that time in my life I had never broken 70 on the Par-72 championship course, at 6,859 yards. I was one under par standing on the 18th tee, a par 5.

I drove it well off the tee, then hit my 5-wood on the right side of the green, sixty feet from the pin. After my Dad and the other father/son team chipped onto the green, I was away, and asked my Dad to tend the pin.

I announced that I was going to make the eagle putt to shoot under 70 for the first time in my life, and then reminded my Dad that he had to take out the pin after I stroked the putt.

"I know, I know," Dad said as he took the pin in his right hand.

I looked over my 60-footer for eagle, read a right to left break of ten feet, pictured the ball going in the hole, then stroked the putt. I walked toward the hole as I watched the ball follow the path that I had pictured in my mind. Ten feet right of the hole, then the ball rolling left toward the hole. As the ball approached the hole and was about five feet from going in, I noticed my Dad was so excited, he was standing there with his hand still on the pin, frozen!

"Dad, pull the pin!" I shouted. Just as the ball was about to hit the pin, where I would incur a two-stroke penalty, Dad got the pin out of the hole. Dad jumped up and down and yelled, "Pete eagled the final hole!"

I walked up to my Dad and told him that I knew the putt was in the hole before I stroked it. I could have made a $1,000 bet before stroking the putt that it was going in the hole; that's how positive I was about making the putt.

When I was in my teens, I had read all 82 volumes of The Destroyer paperback series. It was about a Newark, NJ police officer who was taught the secret of the ultimate martial art by a 90-pound North Korean by the name of Chiun. Remo Williams was the country's secret weapon against evil in the world, and only the President knew how to reach him and how to give him his orders to take out the bad guys. In his spare time, Remo would play golf, scoring eagles and birdies on every hole, because his training taught him to picture something happening, then make it happen.

I shot my first 69 that day, and I love telling that story of mind over matter. It reminds me of Star Wars, and The Force. Remember the phrase, "Use the Force, Luke."?

The next day I was playing Lake Shastina again, this time with a buddy. It was a windy day, and scoring was tougher than the day before. On the 18th green I had a two-foot putt for a par, and the ball was vibrating from the wind.

I knew I was going to miss it!
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Security Is Tight At Quail Hollow Championship!

Today marks the beginning of the Quail Hollow Championship golf tournament in Charlotte, North Carolina . Players took to the course today for the beginning of the pro-am tournament.

Security is tight at the tournament. Police officers and independent security personnel patrol the course, and stand at the front gate, checking bags and purses and using metal detecting wands on visitors.

The tournament must provide security for more than 150 players. Most of us golfers who will watch the tournament on TV, or even attend the tournament in person, seldom realize all the work that is involved with operating a professional golf tournament.

The Quail Hollow Championship, like any PGA Tour event, cannot operate without volunteers. The Quail Hollow Championship is one of the premier stops on the PGA Tour, placing a national and international spotlight on Charlotte, NC.

Probably the most exciting fact about the tournament this year is the presence of both Tiger Woods and Phil Michelson in the competition. Many TV golf commentators did not think that Tiger would compete again so soon after the Masters, especially when Tiger ducked the question when he was asked the final day of the Masters when he would compete again on tour. His comment? "I'm going to take some more time off...."

I believe another very popular player, Fred Couples, is also planning to play at Quail Hollow, instead of playing in this week's Champions' Tour event.

Overall, this tournament should make for good entertainment, but it will be hard to surpass last week's Zurich Classic winner's story in New Orleans. I was touched by the story of Jason Bohn winning the $1 million + first place prize, 18 years after he entered a charity Hole-In-One event as a freshman in college and won $50,000 per year for twenty years. He has two payments left to go. Now he is over $1 million richer, and has a two-year exemption on tour, and an invitation to next year's Masters.

His birdeying three of the last four holes yesterday was the finishing touch to a great story all week long.

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A Troubled Sergio Garcia?

I was watching the Zurich Classic of New Orleans on TV today, and the commentators were talking about why Sergio Garcia went from the #2 golfer in the world to #29 in the last three years. They agreed it was his attitude.

Sergio no longer enjoys playing golf. His temper shows on almost every shot. He rarely smiles when playing in a tournament. One commentator mentioned that Sergio looks like he has troubles off the course, which will effect his play on the course.

I immediately wondered if Sergio had woman troubles. Then I was reminded of last July when I was watching Tiger's play in the Open Championship on Friday, the day he missed the cut. He was cussing more than usual, and throwing clubs. I jokingly told my brother that Tiger must be having woman troubles. Little did any of us know that by November his world of women troubles would come down around his ears.

Sergio isn't married, is he? But he could be having trouble with someone he is dating, right? I don't know who he has been dating lately, but it would not surprise me if he is having girl problems.

Does anyone know what his personal life is all about these days?
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Tiger and Phil in the Limelight Again

After Phil Michelson won The Masters this year, Tiger Woods, who finished fourth, complained about how poorly he had played in his first tournament since leaving the PGA Tour last November. When asked when he would play again, Tiger indicated he was going to take some more time off from the tour.

It was speculated that he might not play again until the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach in June. But Tiger has evidently reported that he will play in next week's Quail Hollow Championship, where Phil Michelson is supposed to be playing as well.

The world's number one and number two will once again be favored to win at Quail Hollow. Which one has the better chance to win? I believe it will be the player who has the best attitude about himself at the time of the tournament, since we all know that golf is played in a five inch wide area, the space between the ears.

I commented right after The Masters that I witnessed quite a few spectators whose body language indicated they were not in Tiger's corner. Those viewers probably thought Tiger had returned to competition too early, and that he should have taken care of his marital problems first.

The crowds at Quail Hollow will be more spontaneous than the attendees at The Masters, and may show more animosity toward Tiger than did the usually subdued crowds at The Masters.

Remember how poorly Tiger played at last year's Open Championship, when he didn't even make the cut. I commented to my brother at the time that Tiger must have had some problems on his mind during that poor play, possibly women problems that preceded the public learning about all of his women later on in November.

If Tiger has his marriage on his mind in two weeks, Phil may have an edge in the competition between the two. I suggest we all watch Tiger closely, to see if his head is clear, or if he seems still troubled. I assure you it will make a difference in his performance.
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The 2010 Masters

The opening round at this year's Masters was exciting, to say the least. Tiger showed that his game is as good as it ever was, even though he took five months off from competitive golf. In fact, Tiger's 68 yesterday was three shots better than his best Masters start ever!

Tom Watson's round was as magical as his leading last year's Open Championship after three rounds, at the age of 59. Tom is now sixty year's old. Another pleasant surprise was Fred Couples' 66 to top the leaderboard after 18 holes, at the age of 50.

Today's round should balance out the field, since early players yesterday will play late today. As long as the weather today is similar to yesterday's, the course conditions should balance out for every player.

Once the weekend arrives, and players at the same score will play together, the course conditions will be fair for the entire field.

Tom Watson is not as long off the tee as he was when he was younger, so it will be interesting to see if he can hang in there against the younger, longer hitters as the tournament committee toughens up the course going into Saturday and again on Sunday.

Let's all watch the play today to see who makes the cut for the weekend.

Phil Mickelson in the News Again

PHIL MICKELSON is in the news again, as he should be when the subject is professional golf. He is opening his 2010 season at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, CA, and with Tiger on the sidelines for who knows how long, Phil is the Number One active player in the world.

Unfortunately, who wins at Torrey Pines this week is second to the controversy surrounding Phil's use of a Pre-1990 PING wedge. As we discussed in December, the rules of golf have made a huge change backwards regarding what golf equipment is legal on the PGA Tour in 2010. Golf equipment has been improved upon over the decades, but this year the USGA decided they were going to eliminate the benefit of square grooves, and go back to what was legal almost twenty years ago!

Phil, as well as several other tour players, is using a PING wedge that has square grooves, and it is legal to do so as far as the Tour is concerned due to a lawsuit brought against the PGA Tour by PING back in the 1990s. But several tour players have publicly slandered Phil for using the wedge, most notably Scott McCarron. McCarron publicly accused Phil of cheating! Those are strong words on the PGA Tour, especially when they are directed at Mickelson. He is not only one of the most squeaky clean players on tour, his entire eighteen-year history has been just that; and at a time when the Tour needs its stars after the Tiger Woods fiasco, it does not need its best player referred to as a cheater!

I for one support Phil's decision to play the PING wedge, and support every player who chooses to do so, as long as the Tour states it is legal. If that governing body decides to change that status, then obviously Phil will go along with that decision.

Let me know what you think.

Phil Mickselson has the Upper Hand Now!

I came across this article yesterday, and wanted to share it with you. It was written by Jack McCallum:

When it comes to Tiger Woods vs. Phil Mickelson, it's clear who has the upper hand now.

The world's two best golfers stare out at me from two quite different places. Over here, a tabloid newspaper carries an action shot of Tiger Woods splashed next to a photo of — if I'm not mistaken — Bimbo No. 4, though it could be Bimbo No. 2, unless it's Bimbo No. 7. And over here, from a full-page ad in the New Yorker, Phil Mickelson gazes squarely into the camera with a CEO's self-assuredness, arms folded, hair coiffed, left sleeve casually rolled up to display a Rolex. "The People's Champion" reads the ad copy.

Mickelson is indeed that, though it is an encomium I never quite understood. The fact that Lunch Bucket Larry related to Lefty, a multi-millionaire who seemed a little whiny, a little smug and a lot prone to collapse whenever a Tiger prowled nearby, (and even when he didn't), was, as far as I was concerned, one of the mysteries of sport.

What is easy to understand, though, is that — with the exception of the tabloids, the artificially-enhanced, show-me-the-money mistresses and the phalanx of attorneys — no one stands to gain more from Tiger's fall than Lefty, his eternal foil. Indeed, despite Woods's constancy (we're talking about on the course) and Mickelson's roller-coaster inconsistency over the years, they remain 1 and 1-A, the one rivalry that has outlasted Woods v. Els, Woods v. Garcia, Woods v. Harrington and Mickelson v. his own foolish shot selection. Woods v. Mickelson truly mattered, not just because of their primacy as players but also because they were, like Magic Johnson and Larry Bird once were, the archetypes of record. Woods the steely-eyed master of his domain, Mickelson the gambling, smiling, club-twirling man of the people.

As a fan, you were to some extent either a Phil Guy or a Tiger Guy. If you were the former, you liked that Lefty signed more autographs, made more eye contact and was willing to try more high-risk shots than Tiger. In other words, you liked that a human heart apparently beat under that famously un-sculpted chest. But Phil Guys had to accept the limits of their man. Mickelson has had his moments against Tiger — two of them came last season when he overtook Woods for victories at the Tour Championship and the HSBC Champions in Shanghai, a World Golf Championship event — but you knew which one had the eternal edge, which one was Mozart and which was Salieri.

Tiger never let anyone forget it either. Their feelings toward each other have warmed over the years; witness their bonding at the President's Cup. (Witness, too, that they were not paired together.) But the most enduring snapshot of their relationship remains the dagger look that Eldrick flashed Lefty at the 2004 Ryder Cup at Oakland Hills in Michigan. Mickelson had just deposited his drive at the 18th hole somewhere near the Canadian border, thereby ensuring that their afternoon alternate-shot pairing would be as disastrous as their morning four-ball pairing had been. I knew this guy would choke, Woods's look seemed to say.

To the extent that I was either, I was a Tiger Guy, solely out of respect for his talent because I don't know the man. My resistance to Mickelson was not based on outside observation, though. I understood the guy's-guy part of him. We tossed around a baseball (he pitched, I caught), did card tricks (they were his), rode around at high speed in his rented sports car (he drove), and thankfully we never reached the point where he took me for everything I was worth in high-stakes NFL bets. But what prevailed, as far as I was concerned, was the I'm-smarter-than-you part of Mickelson's personality, the self-satisfied smugness. This was before he had won a major, too, and his air of bravado rang hollow.

My feelings have evolved over the years, though. Say what you want about him, but Lefty has remained Lefty. He has won majors (three of them), just like he said he would. He might have a plastic smile crazy-glued on his face, but, dammit, he signs every post-round autograph and meets every post-round gaze, just like he said he would. He loves his wife and children and makes sacrifices to his golf game to spend time with them, just like he said he would. Contrast that with what Woods said about himself. Make that, with what Woods seemed to be saying about himself.

Clearly, we have reached a new intersection in golf's most fascinating pas de deux. The contrast in their respective images stands in clear relief, the one a serial womanizer starring in a soap-opera domestic tragedy, the other a dedicated family man helping his wife, Amy, and his mother, Mary, fight brave battles against cancer.

Even before all the Tiger Tales came to light, one of the story lines going into the 2010 season was whether this was the year that Lefty could challenge him for the top spot. Maybe it will happen and maybe it won't, but, to a degree, Mickelson doesn't have to reach No. 1 — there were a lot of Phil Guys even when he was looking up at Woods. We're five years removed from their disastrous Ryder Cup in Michigan, and look whose lie is unplayable now.


Tiger Woods vs. Phil Mickelson

Will Tiger Woods maintain his #1 standing in the world in 2010, or will Phil Mickelson overtake Tiger next year?

Many sports writers have commented that Phil is becoming more motivated to become the world's Number One golfer at this time, while they feel Tiger is placing more emphasis on his "outside" interests!

Tiger, the world's first sports "billionnaire", has received more and more requests for appearances recently, taking him away from his long, daily practice sessions! He has tried to get more into a 24 hour day than ever before, and it is showing (believe it or not) in his game.

His driving off the tee is nowhere near as consistent as in previous years, when he was winning almost every time he teed it up in a tournament. One week, he will win, or come close, and the next week he won't finish in the top ten!

Tiger's putting also has been inconsistent in 2009, often his excuse for not winning.
Phil Mickelson, on the other hand, has found a new putting stroke in the last month which, if carried over to 2010, could be the difference in how the two finish at the end of 2010!

I know that many golfers will disagree with my assessment, because they have jumped on the Tiger bandwagon, and think Tiger is not human! But look at Phil's newfound motivation to become Number One, and Tiger's increased distractions, and that may make the difference in 2010.
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