Monday 19 March 2018

Tiger and the Temple of Doom as Mickelson born again

Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. Photo: Getty Images
Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. Photo: Getty Images

TIGER WOODS has shot 75 in a final round 10 times before -- Sunday was the fifth time since YE Yang first popped his aura at the Majors in the 2009 US PGA.

He'd even taken bigger beatings from other playing companions, but this was different and not just because it was Mickelson who'd given him an 11-strokes pasting at the climax to the AT&T National Pro-Am.

Tiger's game failed him at a time and in a place where, more than ever before, he needed to deliver a swashbuckling performance. Never mind that recent final-round flop at Abu Dhabi, Sunday's reverse at Pebble Beach, encapsulated in his deeply embarrassing three-putt at the last, was deeply wounding for Woods.

Pebble Beach is Tiger's theatre of dreams, where he came from seven behind with seven to play to win the AT&T in 2000; where he delivered the most stunning Major performance of all time at the US Open four months later.

After Saturday's 67 put him in contention for his first Tour victory in 28 months, it was incredible to see Tiger fumble so ineptly, especially on the greens.

Nick Faldo was spot on at the finish when he said "there's nothing wrong physically" with Tiger's golf game. "It's his head." Woods has lost the faith.

HOW fitting that the warmest words of comfort for Tiger came from his arch-rival.

"It's not easy to go through something like that," said Phil Mickelson. "But it can change in one week... watching him play today and seeing the way he hit the ball, it can change in one week for Tiger."

Mickelson illustrated his point on Sunday by fighting back from months of self-doubt to deliver a phenomenal 40th PGA Tour victory and a fourth at the AT&T National Pro-Am.

"For me, this is one of the most emotional victories I've had," he explained. "I'd started to wonder if I'm going to be able to bring it from the practice ground to the golf course.

"This gives me a lot of confidence and erases the doubt."

Mickelson's putting had been suspect since last summer but it was 'Tigeresque' on Sunday as he made 14 out of 14 from inside 10 feet and holed a couple of monsters to boot.

The key moment came at 12 when he stole Tiger's thunder by putting for par from 31 feet moments after Woods had holed-out for birdie from a greenside bunker. Phil looked and felt invincible once again.

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