Welcome to Teeing Off, where Devil Ball editor Shane Bacon and national columnist Jay Busbee take a day's topic and smack it all over the course. Suggest a future topic by hitting us on Twitter at@shanebacon and @jaybusbee. Today we look at Phil Mickelson versus Tiger Woods for the rest of 2013. Here goes ...
Busbee: So Phil Mickelson parachutes in from, what, 2005 and offers up one of the defining tournament performances of the last few years. That means that in successive weeks, we've had a Tiger Woods win and a Phil Mickelson win. Golf's got to be giddy with anticipation, right? Or it would be if these tournaments had happened, you know, after the Super Bowl. But it does beg the question: if these two aging legends can pop out of Olympus's waiting room to win a couple early tournaments, how's the rest of the year going to go? And who's going to have the better year?
Bacon: It really is worth revisiting how well Phil Mickelson played last week. The guy made one normal bogey all week (to go along with his double-bogey after a bad decision led to a water ball) and just seemed to be in a different world than most of the other people at TPC Scottsdale. For a coller-coaster guy like Mickelson, it was a very strange week for him to be that consistent, but now we have to focus on the rest of the season. We saw Phil do a similar act last year at Pebble Beach when he closed with a 64 and didn't do much after that the rest of 2012, so I'm going to say Tiger is still in store to have the better season just because it seems that of the two, Woods is the one with the more consistent golf game. That being said, if Phil has really found this driver that changes his mindset off the tee, isn't he the Masters favorite?
Busbee: A wise man once said that Augusta National is a lefthanders' paradise, and that means Mickelson's always got a puncher's chance there. With Phil, it's always the same story: if he's dialed in, there's nobody that can beat him but himself. I would love to know what's different for him during those tournaments than during the ones where he can't seem to remember which end of the club to hold. Tiger rules by brute force, but Phil is finesse ... when he's on. As we've seen, though, Phil has it in him to lurk in the field and put on a Saturday-afternoon charge to take a run at Sunday. How do you see the rest of the year setting up for him?
Bacon: I think this week is extremely important for Mickelson. I know he's coming off a win but if he falls off this week I think it might hurt his momentum for the rest of the year. If he keeps hitting it like he did at TPC Scottsdale I think it might vault him into a career-making season. Am I way off here?
Busbee: He's such a streaky player within tournaments that it'd stand to reason that he's streaky over the course of a season as well. For that reason, I'm not ready to say that any tournament is a negative bellwether for him. But positivity always helps. If he can go into majors season with two or more victories? He'll be playing relaxed, and for Phil, that's always helpful. Of course, he'll be playing with expectation, and for Phil that's always the kiss of death. Bottom line? No freaking idea what he'll do week to week.
Bacon: And if you had to pick Phil or Tiger to win a major this year at gunpoint, who would you go with?
Busbee: Tiger. Like you said, he's more reliable. Plus, if Phil was pointing the gun, there's a decent chance he'd miss and fire into a hospitality tent. Zing!
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