Saturday 24 March 2018

Mickelson support shows just how far Tiger's star has fallen

Karl MacGinty

TIGER WOODS knows just how far his star has fallen when he is relying on arch-rival Phil Mickelson to rush to his defence.

"I think his game is inches from being there," said Mickelson, after he and Woods had played together in the final round of the BMW Championship.

"His speed is back. He's solid, very close. He's hitting shots. He didn't pull off a few today, but he hit a lot of good shots coming in. His game is not far off at all."

Mickelson, who'll replace Woods as world No 1 if he manages to finish in the top two when he defends his title at the upcoming Tour Championship, outscored Tiger by three strokes on Sunday as he tied the low round of the final day at Cog Hill with a four-under 67.

It even softened the blow of having a pair of $3,500 alligator-skin shoes stolen from his locker, though Mickelson still baulked at a suggestion that he and wild card Woods might play together at the Ryder Cup.

"Oh come on," he retorted emphatically when the subject was raised.

After finishing 42nd in the FedEx Cup points race, Woods is ineligible for the Tour Championship for the first time in 14 years as a professional, so he'll be unable to defend the FedEx Cup he won for the second time in three years last season.

Unless he stuns golf by playing in the upcoming Fall Series, Woods' PGA Tour season is over.

After the Ryder Cup, Woods has entered November's HSBC World Championship in Shanghai; he will defend the JBWere Masters in Melbourne and then play December's Chevron World Challenge, his own tournament in California.

He's looking forward to two weeks off in the run-up to the Ryder Cup, time he will spend working with new coach Sean Foley and getting in some much-needed short-game practice.

Inevitably, that'll sharpen up his game for Celtic Manor, though it's uncertain if Tiger will ever again exercise the same domination over golf or match the record 18 Majors won by Jack Nicklaus.

Since emerging from last winter's sex scandal to play the US Masters, Woods has been a mere shadow of his former self as his marriage fell asunder and he scrabbled for stability in his personal life.

For the first time as a pro, Tiger failed to win on the PGA Tour in 2010, while his 62nd-place finish on the Money List, with just $1.294m banked in 12 events, is his worst by far.

Since his rookie season in 1996, when he won twice in three months to clinch 24th place in the money list, Tiger never finished outside the top four on the US Tour, winning the money title nine times and breaking the $10m barrier three times -- not counting the $10m bonus he won with each of his two FedEx Cups.

The most telling of his off-colour playing statistics this year is his scoring average of 71.07 -- that's 2.23 strokes per round worse than last year, or nearly 10 shots in each tournament.

Under the circumstances, it's hardly surprising the chastened Tiger needed his best enemy to speak up for him.

Irish Independent

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