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The truth about Tiger vs. Lefty

Dan Wetzel
Yahoo Sports

Tiger Woods has released two statements about the drama in his personal life, which isn’t enough for many people. As the women keep coming forward though, the ambulance keeps returning to his mansion and the reports keep coming that his wife, Elin, moved to this house or bought that house, what exactly is he going to say?

His focus should be on his family right now, not his image with the public. He doesn’t owe us any comments.

Neither does Phil Mickelson, Tiger’s chief rival on the PGA Tour, although it’s interesting he hasn’t said a word on the subject either.

There’s no telling whether Mickelson is enjoying this or not. He’s always come across as a compassionate guy, so he’s probably like most people – surveying the carnage with a feeling of disappointment that something, let alone a young family, could become such a mess.

There’s more to it than that for Mickelson though, and I’ll be the first to offer my apology to him for it.

The guy has been ridiculed for years for supposedly lacking the same commitment to winning that Tiger Woods displayed.

Tiger was the guy who worked out relentlessly. Phil was the one who didn’t always look good in a golf shirt.

Tiger was the one whose mental approach was paced by an unwavering focus. Phil was the guy from San Diego with the goofy smile on his face.

Tiger was the one who often prepared and practiced 24/7. Phil was a guy who might leave the course and get in on dessert.

Tiger was the one that cared so much about victory that nothing, absolutely nothing would get in the way. Phil spent too much time interacting with the fans and playing with his kids.

Tiger won, in part, because he never had to turn his passion for victory on. This was because he never turned it off. Phil lost because he didn’t or couldn’t match that.

The comparisons had to absolutely chap Mickelson because it’s quite possible he'd heard whispers about the life Tiger Woods really was living. The public may not have known, but certainly those in the inner-sanctum of the tour must have had suspicions, if not confirmations.

Tiger Woods is a better golfer than Phil Mickelson and probably always will be. Tiger Woods has proven repeatedly that in crunch time, he is mentally tougher than Phil Mickelson.

What can’t be said is that Tiger was what we thought he was – a golfing machine who walked, talked and cared about only one thing, breaking Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major championships.

Turns out he spent huge chunks of his free time in cocktail lounges, Las Vegas casinos and juggling multiple romantic relationships. He lived the exclusive, jet-set, VIP concierge party life more associated with rock stars or young Hollywood than a guy with membership to Augusta National. He even wasn’t above running around in the middle of tournaments, if his girlfriends are to be believed.

He may have been able to roll out of bed after a night of carousing and still humble the rest of the world’s golfers, but it wasn’t because he wanted it more than they did, as the legend was told.

It’s not even close. I’m not naïve enough to make assumptions on anyone’s private life, but it stands to reason he actually prepared to win a lot less than Mickelson and the rest.

To look at it comparatively, how could they possibly chase as many skirts as Tiger, party as much as Tiger or waste time texting as many girls as Tiger?

It’s not so different from the accusation Roger Clemens used performance enhancing drugs. Suddenly his years of bluster about how he was more committed and harder working than the other players became nothing but hot air.

Yes, they got old and tired; because they weren’t loaded up with Winstrol.

Yet, Woods, like Clemens, basked in that false praise. They built marketing brands around it. They were the descendants of great American Puritanism – immense talent meeting total, humble commitment.

I don’t blame Tiger for not coming clean about the reality of his down time.

I also wouldn’t blame Phil Mickelson if he was sitting at home right now in a state of Schadenfreude. He’d have to be an angel on earth not to be. It’s one thing to be constantly reminded by the media and the fans that you’re not as good of a golfer as Tiger Woods. There’s no sin in that.

It’s entirely another to be constantly reminded that you just don’t care as much. In America, that’s damning stuff and when it’s not true (as Phil likely knew) it’s painful.

So here’s my apology to Mickelson for ever writing, saying or insinuating that his commitment to winning golf tournaments was in any way less than Tiger Woods.

You may not be the caliber of golfer as Tiger, but it was unfair to judge anything other than what showed up on the scorecard.