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Is it too early to worry about Tiger or Phil?

Kevin Currie, Golf Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Using a 'huge' sample size of three combined events, what can we make of the starts by Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson?

Woods teed it up on the European Tour this week instead of playing the Farmers Insurance Open, an event he has won six times. Meanwhile, Mickelson did play the Farmers, but was only around for two rounds.

Woods entered the final round tied for the lead with England's Robert Rock but managed just an even-par 72 to share third place behind Rock.

The former world No. 1 gears his season's around the four majors, so you can't be overly alarmed that he lost to some guy most golf fans hardly even know.

At the Abu Dhabi Championship, Woods hit 50-percent of fairways, just over 72- percent of greens in regulation and averaged 29.25 putts per round.

In his final round however, Woods hit just two fairways and six greens in regulation. The precision Woods needs to win just wasn't there on the final day, yet he remained upbeat despite the loss.

"I felt just a touch off," Woods said afterwards. "Since Australia, my stroke- play events, I've been doing pretty good. I just need to keep getting more consistent. Today, I putted beautifully, but didn't give myself enough looks."

Woods was right there in his second straight official event (Australian Open and Abu Dhabi Championship), but ended in third place both times. Some say he's back, I'll agree to that when he wins again, and knowing Tiger, he likely wouldn't agree with that assessment until he wins a major.

And then there was Phil the thrill.

Mickelson has shot in the 60s in four of his six rounds, but didn't contend in either of the two events he has played.

In the main statistical categories, Mickelson ranks in the top-50 in just one - birdie average. He is 69th in driving accuracy and 79th in greens in regulation.

What strikes me about his share of 49th at the Humana Challenge and his missed cut at the Farmers Insurance Open was his poor opening rounds

At the Humana, which is one of the biggest birdie-fests on tour, Mickelson stumbled to a two-over 74. Then on the more difficult South Course at Torrey Pines, Mickelson had seven bogeys en route to a five-over 77.

Some commentators on the Golf Channel stated that Phil is playing his way into shape. I'll respectfully disagree.

In the 13 of the 18 years he has won on tour, Mickelson won an early-season event in either California or Arizona. Of his 39 careers victories, 16 have come in early season West Coast tournaments.

Since he joined the tour in 1992, Mickelson never went more than two straight years without a West Coast win at the start of the season until 2009. That year he won the Northern Trust Open, but he hasn't won out west since.

He has four titles since that win at the Northern Trust, and the only one that came after April was the 2009 Tour Championship.

Mickelson could be battling to find the right medication for his arthritis, but more likely he's just off to a slow start.

The eye-ball test between Mickelson and Woods shows that Woods is closer to winning, but that could change in an instant.

Mickelson will play one of his favorite events this week in Phoenix. If he plays poorly there, then there will be cause for concern. If he contends, the first two events were just a mirage.

One thing is certain, the sooner these two get back to winning, the sooner fans will realize the golf season is underway. Let's hope that realization comes before the tour heads to Augusta National the first week of April.

THE COMEBACK KID

Brandt Snedeker is both lucky and good. He earned his third PGA Tour title on Sunday and pushed his PGA Tour playoff record to 2-0.

Snedeker hasn't just won three times, he has rallied for all three of those wins. He has erased deficits of four, six and eight strokes.

The math may show he was seven behind Kyle Stanley to start Sunday's final round, but Snedeker was eight back after he birdied the third, while Stanley birdies Nos. 1 and 2.

In his three wins, Snedeker has closed with rounds of 63, 64 and 65. He needed some help on Sunday as Stanley faltered to a triple-bogey on the final hole of regulation to force the playoff.

Once Stanley opened the door, Snedeker gladly stepped through and picked up the victory.

Some might argue that Snedeker didn't knock off any big names in his three wins, but that wouldn't be correct. His playoff win last year at The Heritage was over then world No. 1 Luke Donald. The Englishman lost that title briefly after falling in this playoff, but he has had a stranglehold on the top spot for 35 straight weeks now.

Snedeker had seven top-10s last year and is off to a fast start this year with top-eight finishes in his two starts despite coming off hip surgery in the offseason.

What will this quick start lead to? A major title, a spot on the USA Ryder Cup team? Only time and his health will tell.

MINI-TIDBITS

- Woods hasn't strung together four sub-pars rounds since the 2010 Masters, a span of 25 stroke-play tournaments.

- Lydia Ko became the youngest winner of a professional golf event on Sunday when she won a women's event in Australia. The 14-year-old Ko beat Becky Morgan by four strokes. Ryo Ishikawa, then 15, and Amy Yang, then 16, held the previous records for youngest winners in male and female events.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Kevin Currie at kcurrie@sportsnetwork.com.

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