No Regard

June 14, 2008

Tiger tries to let the legend grow…

Filed under: golf — Tags: , , , — Andy Vasquez @ 5:13 pm

For those who have followed golf regularly for the last 15 years, there’s one rule to go by: Never, ever, pick against Tiger.

But for those who picked Tiger Woods this week (including this fine site) it was more a practice of following that important rule, rather than a true, unshakable belief that Tiger could win.

He hasn’t played competitively in two months. He’s limping, noticeably, and grimacing his way around the South Course at Torrey Pines. The guy hadn’t even walked a full 18-hole round in two months before this week.

And yet, here he is, about about to begin his third round of the U.S. Open only one stroke behind perennial major championship choker Stuart Appleby, who is at 3-under-par. (Seriously, if Appleby is under par by the time he reaches the 10th tee today, it will be a minor miracle.)

Yes, there’s a lot of golf left to be played. But as he warms up for his third round this afternoon, he is in absolutely perfect position. And with the weekend pressure machine firing up today — and with Tiger being the only major champion near the top of the leaderboard — do not be surprised if he turns this into a complete rout by the end of the day. If he can get off to a fast start — drop a few loud Tiger Roars on the front nine just to let the contenders know he’s there — his walk on Father’s Day could be a runaway.

It must be incredibly demoralizing for the rest of the field already that he’s even in contention, despite the layoff. And if he wins this thing, the Tiger intimidation factor could return to the heights that we saw in 2000 and 2001. And the legendary status will only grow.

And speaking of demoralizing … there’s Phil Mickelson, out of contention after two days.

Lets translate a few of Phil’s thoughts and actions this week into reality:

Mickelson thought: He went into this tournament describing it as a potentially “career-defining” moment.

Actual reality: He wanted it too badly, and didn’t just trust that his best would be enough to get him in contention, even though he has been a runner-up four times.

Mickelson thought: He didn’t carry a driver in the bag for the first two rounds.

Actual reality: He was consistently out-driven by both Adam Scott and Tiger, and gave himself no shot of reaching any of the par 5’s in two. Meanwhile, he proceeded to miss the majority of fairways, despite playing with a supposedly more conservative three-wood.

We shouldn’t judge Mickelson too harshly, because he’s been incredibly successful as a tournament golfer. If Tiger Woods had never existed, he would be one of the all-time legends. But it would be nice to see Phil just trust his game, and drop the gimmicks and manufactured hype. He’s good enough to constantly be in contention, and you can’t beat Tiger if you’re not in contention.


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