Difference between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson on painful display at U.S. Open
The difference: it’s all up there in the medulla oblongata. The head.
Mickelson comes out driver-less on the longest U.S. Open course in history. That’s fine, but the three-wood he carries is essentially a mini-driver, with an 11.5 degree loft. It was as if Mickelson couldn’t totally commit to a strategy many saw as bizarre.
The problem of course was that Mickelson couldn’t execute, missing fairway after fairway with his midget driver. He would have been just as well off with a driver, missing fairways but at least being closer to the hole. If he wasn’t such a great short-game player, he’d be out of this Open.
Well-conceived, poorly executed.
Then there was Woods, obviously sub-par with a gimp left knee. Yet somehow, he manages to pull off a round that has him in serious contention heading into the weekend, mostly by sinking some long, timely putts.
Both are supremely gifted golfers. If you put the two side-by-side and compared strictly their physical game, Mickelson would probably come out slightly ahead, by virtue of the sheer variety of his shots and his artistry around the greens.
But, this matchup showed why golf is more in the head than perhaps any other sport.
Woods is simply far superior mentally. He’s stronger. He knows how to pull off the shot when he needs it, even when he’s limping and grimacing.
Mickelson is mentally weaker than Woods. He’s affected by Woods’ aura, drawn into the Tiger universe. You have to wonder if Mickelson would have tried his driver-less strategy if he had been paired with anyone other than Woods. It was as if he was backing down from the challenge, even from a wounded Tiger.
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