Monday, April 13, 2009

Reaction Further Proof Of What Separates Tiger From Phil

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- This is why Tiger is Tiger. And why Phil is Phil.

This is why Tiger Woods is the main course of every tournament he enters. And why Phil Mickelson is Tiger-lite. He's not steak. He's a salad.

Woods didn't win the Masters on Sunday, and it was obvious. He stalked out of the official scorer's cabin with red eyes and a red ass, refused to look at CBS reporter Bill Macatee until the camera went live, and spit out curt answers to the media before disappearing. Tiger was asked if his performance Sunday -- he started the day seven shots off the lead and got within one stroke before bogeying the last two holes -- was satisfying or devastating. He went with devastating. "Just terrible," he said. Mickelson didn't win the Masters either -- but it wasn't obvious. He emerged from the scorer's cabin with a smile. He wasn't angry. He was relieved. "It was a fun, challenging back nine," Mickelson said. "I love the fact I shot 30 [on the front] to give myself a chance to win." Mickelson finished fifth and loved Sunday. Woods finished sixth and hated it. Now do you understand why one of them is the most successful player of his time -- and why the other is the most frustrating? Woods wins all the time because he hates to lose. Finishing second, third, 73rd ... what does it matter? He came to Augusta National to win, not to come close. It's no wonder he won the 2008 U.S. Open with a broken leg and shredded knee. He wouldn't quit, and then he decided he wouldn't lose. Mickelson wouldn't have won that tournament with that injury. He probably wouldn't have entered the damn thing. That's obviously a hypothetical, and it's probably not fair to speculate on such a thing. But I'm doing it. Because I was there Sunday when Woods came out of the scorer's cabin looking like he'd lost all his money -- and Mickelson came out looking like he'd found it. "It was fun to have a chance on the back nine," Mickelson said. "That's what we want as players." Wrong, Phil. That's what you want as a player. You and most of the rest of the pros. But it's not what Woods wants. He doesn't want "a chance on the back nine." He wants that big trophy and that big check they give to the winner. He wants the green jacket, even though he already has four of them. He wants one for the thumb, and then he'll want a sixth. And a seventh.

What Woods doesn't want is to make nice and pretend like he's pleased. And so when he walked out of the scorer's cabin and CBS personnel wanted him to step onto the pedestal they'd erected to interview the players, Woods declined. Immortals step onto pedestals. Woods was good Sunday, even great, but he wasn't great enough to win. So he'll stay down on the ground with the rest of the mortals, thank you. Mickelson practically pulled his groin hopping onto the pedestal. If he'd been asked to put a rose between his teeth, he'd have done it. Mickelson woke up Sunday morning seven shots out of the lead and paired with Tiger Woods, and his apparent goal was to avoid embarrassment. Don't get blown out by Woods. Beat him, lose to him, whatever. Just don't look like an idiot. Mission accomplished. Woods woke up Sunday morning expecting to win. He'd said as much Saturday night, and I almost -- but not quite, if you read to the end -- mocked him for it. "Still got a chance," Tiger? Suuuure you do. But he did have a chance. Even though he and his driver were barely on speaking terms. "I hit it so bad warming up today," Woods said. "I was hitting quick hooks, blocks, you name it, and then on the very first hole I almost hit it [two fairways to the left]. It's one of the worst tee shots I've ever hit. ... I almost won the tournament with a Band-Aid swing." And he wasn't happy about that. He wasn't even mad. He was seething. An enormous scoreboard was off to his right, evidence of his handiwork, of his 4-under 68, and Woods didn't look at it. Didn't care. He walked off the course without bothering to find out where he was in relation to the leaders. He wasn't going to win -- that's all he knew. That's all that mattered. Mickelson had nothing to be mad about. As he stood on the CBS pedestal waiting to be interviewed by Macatee, Mickelson gazed at the leaderboard with a look of wonderment. You could almost read his thoughts: Look where I started the day. And look where I finished it. Mickelson's viewpoint is more realistic, of course. You really can't win them all, and Mickelson accepts that. Woods accepts nothing. No wonder he's the best golfer we've ever seen.


Thanks to Gregg Doyel of CBS Sports for this.

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