The golf world was never supposed to be like this. There were certain things that made sense and that was that. Fred Couples had a smooth swing. Tiger Woods was the champion. Phil Mickelson was the lovable loser we all enjoyed rooting for, even if at times he came through in the clutch.
But this? This?! No no no. We were told this wasn't going to happen. Phil Mickelson was paired on Sunday with Tiger at Pebble Beach, a place that still has a bruise from the last time Tiger slapped it. No matter what happened since, Pebble was Tiger's to feast on, and Phil was the guy that had won here before but always as the guy he was, nothing more.
Nope. This isn't the script. Phil isn't supposed to be sticking irons to three feet while paired with Tiger. He isn't the guy that makes clutch par putts from darn near Burlingame. And an iron off the 18th tee?! What happened to the man that hit driver off the deck with a chance to win?
Golf is a game that isn't supposed to be understandable, yet for so many years, Tiger Woods made it that way. He forced us to believe in another dichotomy . He brainwashed our logic. We knew Phil Mickelson. We knew Tiger Woods. Both incredible talents that couldn't be further from each other.
Much like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, Tiger and Phil are geniuses in their own regard. Phil, more like Gates, has relied on a career to make him a namesake. He had a way of doing things and never wavered from it. Tiger seems to come more from the Jobs mold, if you don't mind forgetting that Tiger's "blow ups" are more in the form of stares and history. Tiger, like Jobs, got out of the gate fast. He showed us a way to do things. He introduced us to something revolutionary and made it seem like it was the only way. Phil has always been there. From his PGA Tour win as a college kid to his 40th victory this afternoon, Mickelson understands who he is and what he does. He is a magician. He produces things in a game we never thought possible. He is reliable.
On Sunday, logic finally left the building. A man named Tiger fell to a man named Phil again at a golf course that has shown both the respect they deserve. Phil is a masterful man, but he is no Tiger. These days, it seems the reverse could as easily be said about Mickelson.
The putts Tiger missed on Sunday are probably going to be overblown. He decided, it seemed, that taking the break out of the infamously bumpy Pebble Beach greens was the way to go, and it never worked out for him. He missed short putt and short putt, on the high lip, with too much speed. It was a recipe that just wasn't cooking. Knowing Tiger, he will move on from this the same way he always does. "I hit some good putts today that didn't go in," he probably said (I honestly didn't check his quotes). It's the Tiger way.
For Phil, things are surely changing. His post-round interview didn't lend much time on the present, but more on the future. "I hope it is one of many this season," he remarked quickly after his birdie putt dropped on the 72nd hole. He had posted a 64 in the final round of a big golf tournament while paired with the guy most never thought he'd be able to beat.
A few years back, Tiger said of a fellow competitor that was getting a little frisky with his words, "9 & 8." It was the golf equivalent of "scoreboard" in basketball. Tiger, I have bad news for you. If you let Phil get you again, he's going to be able to turn those words around at you.
The 2012 season is in full swing, folks. I hope you're ready for the fireworks.
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