All due respect to Rory McIlroy, but Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson remain the twin towers of 21st century golf. But they're the yin to the other's yang, their rivalry not a battle but a seesaw. When one's up, the other's down, round to round, tournament to tournament, season to season.
Friday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, we saw that seesaw in effect once more. Woods charged to within a shot of the lead (though he'd later give back his gains), while Mickelson stumbled to one of his worst rounds in years (and he'd give back his courtesy car).
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Woods was rolling, carrying a -5 day that had him at -8 overall, one stroke behind leaders Justin Rose and Bill Haas, with just three holes remaining. But then three weak bogeys in the final three holes dropped him into a tie for seventh, four strokes back.
"The good news is we've got 36 holes to go," Woods said. "We've got a long way to go. And certainly four shots can be made up."
Mickelson, meanwhile, shot a seven-over 79 that bounced him from the tournament. His card featured three 7s, as well as a four-putt from five feet. It wasn't the kind of performance you'd expect from someone who'd won this tournament before, much less a Hall of Famer.
"There is a huge discrepancy between the low scores and the high scores,'' Mickelson said afterward. "Obviously, I played terrible, and I deserved to shoot a score like this, but I felt like if I hit good shots, I could make birdies.'' That's some heavy-duty rationalization, but whatever.
And so the seesaw continues. The next time we see Mickelson, he'll be at the Shell Houston Open, gearing up for Augusta. The next time we see Woods, he'll be gunning for a win ... and with it, a return to the No. 1 spot in the world. We'd love to see both in the mix among the azaleas, but if form holds, one will be there and the other will be done early.
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