As Phil Mickelson walked up to the eighteenth green alongside of Tiger Woods on Pebble Beach golf course on Sunday, it was easy to see who was in control of his emotions and more "inspired" by his circumstances and who was going through the motions, allowing his mental game to weaken with every missed shot.
Did Phil's ear-to-ear grin striding down the fairway belie an air of smugness? Mickelson could have shown a bit of haughtiness, chin high, blowing off Tiger as a mere afterthought. Lefty has “beaten” Woods straight up the last five times they have been paired together in the final round of golf events and the once ferocious Tiger hardly had any bite in his game.
No, that is simply not Phil. Instead, Mickelson remained gracious and maintained, “I don't believe anybody has benefited more from what he's done (Woods) for the game than myself.”
Not only did he handily win the ATT, Mickelson did so with a score of 64 and with Woods stumbling on a final three-footer. Phil’s expression when Tiger missed the putt? He looked a bit downhearted, like he really wanted Woods to succeed. Phil wants to beat Tiger with Woods at his best, not during his lowest moments.
Perhaps Phil needs to offer Tiger insights into his current mental strategy for staying in the game as the same malady seems to be affecting Woods on those short putts. "I've been a little bit lazy mentally," Mickelson said, "so it was a real effort for me to stay focused on every single shot and to not let my mind slip or wander or be lazy."
That being said, I would like to eat my words <chomp, chomp> from a blog I wrote a few weeks ago in which I considered that Phil Mickelson may be washed up (both physically and mentally) for the PGA Tour. Although I still believe that Mickelson is entering into “comfortable” events, it’s certainly not wrong to do so and will probably even increase his resolve and confidence in events. Also, his physical ailments didn't appear to bother him. Enbrel for his psoriatric arthritis must be working...
I heartily congratulate Mickelson on his 40th victory (now ninth in all-time wins) on the PGA Tour and wish him the best of luck this week at the Northern Trust Open, an event he won in 1991 as an amateur (Telecom Open) and back to back again during the 2008/2009 seasons. I am rooting for Lefty in my weekly Twitter fantasy pool. Last week, my choice of Tiger Woods to win the ATT did not turn out favorably but I think I’m making the right choice this week. I will still be cheering on Tiger Woods too (no, I am not hedging my bet...)