Monday, June 21, 2010

Is Tiger back? Will Phil ever be number one?

As every golf fan knows by now, Tiger Woods finished tied for fourth with Phil Mickelson at Pebble Beach. The negatives were that he hit some terrible iron shots and couldn't get many putts to fall. The main positive was that he was able to keep his name on the leaderboard in spite of play that I'm sure at least saw as "below average."

Tiger Woods, whether one likes him, hates him, or is somewhere in the middle, is still the most compelling, exciting figure in golf. He finished tied with Mickelson, but nobody was really talking about Phil afterwards; they were talking about Tiger. Also, it seems like the fans are back in his corner. He still gets the best crowd reaction on the course.

Is Tiger truly "back?" It would definitely appear so. In an interview, he said that he feels like he "can play again." That might be great news for the tour, but not great news for his closest competitors.

Speaking of his closest competitors, this does not bode well for Mickelson. Mickelson has had a chance to overtake Tiger for number one while Tiger is rehabbing his game and his psyche, but has come up short so far. If Phil can't overtake Tiger now, I don't see him overtaking Tiger when Tiger makes it back to the top of his game. Like so many US Opens for Phil, this entire year is setting up as one gigantic blown chance.

Maybe, like a well-known car rental company, Phil is happy with being number two. But I can't help but think that he is seething inside beneath his "happy-to-be-here" demeanor. I know that it is a stretch to consider a year in which he has won a major a "failure," but Phil isn't doing much to deter those who still see him as "Chokelson" or "Mickelsecond."

Here's hoping that Tiger gets it all the way back, but Phil hangs in there and puts up a lot better fight than he has the last month. It is a lot better for the game if its two best players aren't simultaneously percieved as its two biggest head cases.

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