How the Tiger-Phil dynamic can possess flipped at Winged Foot –

Sep 13, 2020

  • Bob HarigESPN Senior Creator


    • Senior golf writer for
    • Covered golf for extra than 20 years
    • Earned Evans Scholarship to relieve Indiana College

The project is being relived but every other time, with the total gory shrimp print. The wayward drive at the 72nd hole. The unwise decision to trip for the green. The unlucky ability that couldn’t even encourage salvage a bogey.

Considered one of Phil Mickelson‘s hardest defeats has great extra meaning all these years later because the U.S. Birth returns to Winged Foot, effect of his final-hole implosion in 2006.

It used to be a sizable opportunity for Mickelson to clutch the ultimate most important he has but to deliver, and it will possess to also additionally be argued that it ranks among the many game’s ultimate meltdowns.

But it with out a doubt also equipped a uncommon probability to make something rarely carried out: inflict damage to Tiger Woods when he used to be down.

Rather than Woods’ myriad damage considerations later in his occupation, he seemingly used to be by no formulation as vulnerable as he used to be that week in 2006 at broken-down Winged Foot, which is able to host the U.S. Birth for a sixth time. Every outdated outing has left lasting reminiscences.

There used to be Bobby Jones’ 36-hole playoff victory in 1929. The first of two U.S. Opens for with out a doubt one of many game’s most underrated avid gamers, Billy Casper, in 1959. The “Massacre at Winged Foot” when Hale Irwin gained in 1974 at 7 over par. Greg Norman‘s playoff loss to Fuzzy Zoeller in 1984.

And, for certain, Geoff Ogilvy‘s 2006 clutch when both Mickelson and Colin Montgomerie double-bogeyed the final hole to lose by one.

For Mickelson, a vast opening closed. It used to be no longer suitable a probability to clutch the U.S. Birth, it used to be also a probability to surpass Tiger. Now not within the field rankings. Now not in occupation victories. Now not in majors. It used to be a probability to be the tip dog and leave the Mammoth Cat, for once, chasing.

A victory at Winged Foot would possess intended three straight most important championships for Mickelson, a feat carried out suitable thrice within the stylish era, once by Woods six years earlier. It could perhaps perhaps possess flipped the script, modified the fable. Rather than Tiger chasing historic past, it could perhaps perhaps possess been Tiger chasing Phil.

Tiger had gained four majors in a row in 2000-01, identified because the Tiger Slam. A Mickel-Slam had a undeniable kind of ring to it, but Phil did no longer care the design in which it sounded.

Doubtless extra subtly, a undeniable sense of enjoyment would possess been in present. For an appropriate fragment of their careers, Woods considered Mickelson as an hectic gnat on his Nike shirt, to be flicked away with tiny regard. He made a behavior of dismissing Phil as with out narrate as knocking the dirt out of his spikes.

As all of this drama unfolded at Winged Foot, Woods used to be but a footnote. He used to be mourning the loss of his father, Earl, who had died on Would possibly perhaps perhaps well presumably also 3 of that Three hundred and sixty five days, and arrived at Winged Foot unprepared, lacking the lower for the first time in a most important championship as a professional. His thoughts had been a prolonged formulation from the suburban Recent York course, and for with out a doubt one of many uncommon times in Woods’ historic occupation, the eyes of the golf world had been no longer captivated with him.

“I will possess suggested you always sooner than we teed off on Thursday that it used to be going to be hectic,” said Steve Williams, Woods’ caddie at the time. “Making the lower used to be going to be hectic. I’d in overall utilize the weekend sooner than a most important with him, and his notice used to be with out a doubt no longer sizable. His put used to be nowhere end to the effect it desired to be to clutch a U.S. Birth.

“Tiger used to be unprecedented in that he gained so many of his tournaments with out his most effective put. But there, you wish to possess your A-game. And plenty of times he gained with lower than that. But there, and with the project of the course, he did no longer possess it.”

Mickelson had the stage to himself and stumbled into the orchestra pit. He crouched on the 18th green, a crumpled bundle of yellow immediate-sleeved shirt, shaded hat and grey slacks. He used to be embarrassed, in effort — and it used to be all self-inflicted.

Ogilvy used to be the beneficiary, his final-spherical 2-over 72 reputedly no longer enough when he completed. The Australian had by no formulation gained a most important sooner than and would by no formulation clutch a most important but every other time — and wouldn’t cease top five in one other U.S. Birth.

When Ogilvy used to be making a 6-footer on the final green for a fourth consecutive par, he couldn’t possess had an inkling that an hour later he’d be preserving the U.S. Birth trophy, with Mickelson at the ceremony, quiet down for the count.

“I’ll repeat you what,” NBC analyst Johnny Miller said as he watched the carnage unfold, “Ben Hogan has officially rolled over in his grave.”

A par would possess gained it for Mickelson; a bogey would possess intended an 18-hole playoff the subsequent day with Ogilvy. And who make you suspect would possess been appreciated in that scenario? As a change, Mickelson’s double-bogey 6 fee him the ultimate most important championship he has by no formulation gained.

With the clutch, Mickelson would possess joined Hogan (1953) and Woods (2000) because the ultimate avid gamers within the stylish era to clutch three consecutive most important championships. Now not even the sizable Jack Nicklaus carried out that feat. Nor Arnold Palmer. Nor Sam Snead or Byron Nelson. Nor Tom Watson or Lee Trevino or Gary Participant.

And with this kind of victory, Mickelson would possess headed to The Birth at Royal Liverpool on the cusp of the unthinkable: matching Tiger’s feat of preserving all four most important championships at the same time. But all that modified with a series of choices that also boggles the mind. Decisions that are discussed and debated to this day.

“I quiet am in shock after I did that,” Mickelson said later to a roomful of newshounds who had been suitable as dazed. “I suitable can’t imagine that I did that. I’m such an idiot. I will’t imagine I could no longer par the last hole. It with out a doubt stings.”

A month later, when Mickelson confirmed up early to note at Royal Liverpool, he wasn’t attempting to cloak the effort.

“Properly, I’m no longer going to ever forget that,” he said. “I make no longer believe many of us that watched it potentially can even no longer both, but for me, I will also no longer ever forget that.”

It would be impossible.

The cease used to be swift and merciless. Mickelson stayed within the scoring room for an appropriate while, consoled by his partner, Amy, and quiet attempting to kind sense of it all. Amy would later relate he used to be in a trance. Truth be suggested, Mickelson had no longer performed all that properly for the period of the final spherical. He hit suitable two fairways. Retaining the lead had been a minor miracle — even supposing it used to be in most cases the formulation Mickelson performed the game. It is why his feeble longtime caddie, Jim “Bones” Mackay, quiet says that while it used to be a crushing loss, it wasn’t the most crushing loss in a Mickelson occupation stuffed with them.

“On the least no longer to the diploma it is seemingly you’ll perhaps presumably imagine, on tale of what? Or no longer it is miles a 72-hole tournament,” Mackay said. “And or no longer it is miles a hectic hole. Or no longer it is pretty easy to deliver you kind a 4 right here and also you clutch the U.S. Birth. Or no longer it is no longer that straightforward. You are playing a 460-yard par-4, and he used to be having anxiety along with his ball- striking that day. There you trip. Or no longer you’ll want to play all of them.”

Mickelson’s tie for second — Montgomerie also blew a sizable probability to get accurate into a playoff when he made a big amount of the final hole, lacking the green with a 7-iron — marked the 21st time to that level he had completed seventh or better in a most important. And his Masters victory two months earlier used to be no longer making him feel better. Now not in any formulation.

There had been various end calls, but those defeats had been nothing worship Winged Foot.

“This one hurts extra than any [other] tournament on tale of I had it gained,” he said. “I had it in my rating and suitable let it trip.”

Upright over two years earlier, Mickelson had captured that elusive first most important, starting up a green-jacket-sharing flee with Woods that reputedly used to be following within the custom of the ultimate avid gamers to come sooner than them.

And even supposing Tiger would clutch two majors in 2005 — his first since 2002 — it used to be Phil who bagged the last with out a doubt one of many Three hundred and sixty five days at the PGA Championship. When he added the Masters in 2006 — denying Woods a green jacket he dearly coveted — the 2 avid gamers had mixed to clutch four of the last nine majors.

When Woods gained the Masters in 2005 — outlasting Chris DiMarco in a playoff after squandering a two-shot lead with two holes to trip — he paid tribute to his father. It used to be with out a doubt one of many uncommon times when Woods printed a human side. Earl Woods had no longer been ready to kind it to the tournament due to illness.

“This one’s for Dad,” Woods said. “He’s struggling. That’s why it intended so great for me so that you just need to clutch this tournament, per chance give him a tiny bit hope, a tiny bit extra fire to retain combating.”

Woods gained The Birth later that Three hundred and sixty five days at St. Andrews for his 10th most important title, and that used to be followed by Mickelson’s PGA title at Baltusrol. And after they arrived at Augusta the following spring, Woods’ dad used to be but every other time on his mind as Phil prevailed.

It used to be his second consecutive most important and third within the last nine, and Woods used to be there to position the green jacket on him, frustrated in his possess inability to get it carried out, especially lustrous that his dad used to be end to loss of life.

“I’ve misplaced tournaments sooner than and I have been by some hectic defeats over the years, but nothing worship that, on tale of I knew my dad would by no formulation live to note one other most important championship,” Woods said plenty of years later. “On the time, going into that final spherical on the encourage nine, I pressed and I attempted to kind putts as but every other of suitable allowing it to occur. I attempted to force it.

“I do know he used to be at home staring at, and I suitable with out a doubt desired to possess him be a fragment of 1 last most important championship victory. And I did no longer get it carried out.”

All of that situation the stage for Winged Foot, the effect Woods arrived rusty, having no longer performed for the rationale that Masters. It had been lower than six weeks since Earl died, and Woods understandably skipped tournaments along the formulation, electing to veil up at the U.S. Birth with out great preparation.

“I’m right here to compete and play and verify out to clutch this championship,” he said. “I do know that dad would quiet need me to grind it and affords it my most effective, and that is the rationale what I continuously make. That is what I will certainly try to make that week.”

But Woods’ heart — and game — used to be clearly lower than the duty. If ever he used to be uncovered, this used to be the time. It used to be no longer the same Tiger, by a mile. He bogeyed his first three holes, hit suitable three fairways for the spherical and did properly to shoot a 6-over 76. The drive and the flexibility to middle of attention and block out distractions had been woefully lacking.

The next day, he double-bogeyed his fifth hole and the standard fight used to be long gone. He shot one other 76 to miss the lower by three strokes, his first weekend off at a most important since turning pro in 1996, breaking a inch of 36 made cuts. Tiger used to be hurting, understandably so. And Phil used to be in space to pounce, to take a seat atop the golf world with a third straight most important.

But with Woods out of the image, Mickelson used to be unable to reveal. At a time when Tiger would possess stepped on necks to get the trophy, Phil could ultimate sheepishly play that final hole with so great at stake, leading to that trance-worship daze. It used to be his fourth runner-up cease at the U.S. Birth (he would cease second on two extra events), but extra crucial, he had blown a golden opportunity for that third straight most important. It could perhaps perhaps rating one other four years sooner than he’d clutch most important No. 4.

Making topic worse?

Woods would trip on to clutch that Birth at Royal Liverpool after which the PGA Championship at Medinah. Rather than Phil reigning with three straight majors, it used to be Tiger raining on Phil’s stalled parade.

“I’m such an idiot,” Mickelson had said — words that would linger for a extremely very prolonged time.

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