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So I was wrong about Phil & Tiger
Kevin Currie, Golf Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Was it just two weeks ago that some writer asked whether Tiger or Phil was closer to winning?
And didn't said writer come to the conclusion that Tiger was closer?
Guilty as charged!
I'm sure Phil Mickelson didn't use my column as motivation on Sunday at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. All he needed for that was to look at his playing partner, Tiger Woods.
According to the PGA Tour, Sunday marked just the 10th time they were paired together in the final round at a tour event. Tiger had the early advantage in those 10, but Phil now owns that match-up.
Sunday was the fifth consecutive time Mickelson shot lower than Woods when they were paired together. Wait, WHAT?
Mickelson has out-Tigered Tiger!
The par-three 12th was all you needed to see to know that Mickelson was going to best Woods on this day. Woods, who was five strokes back at the time, holed a bunker shot for birdie.
Mickelson, who also missed the green, hit a poor chip to 30 feet. Everyone thought there would be a two-, maybe three-shot swing.
Mickelson buried the par putt and was four clear of Woods, and two strokes ahead over Charlie Wi.
Mickelson followed with birdies on the next two holes. If the tournament wasn't over then, it was at the 16th.
Lefty again looked to be in trouble as he could only hit a bunker shot to 38 feet. Ho-hum, he dropped that par putt right in the hole, too.
So, for the first time in four starts in 2012, Mickelson put together a tournament with four sub-par rounds. It helped that he finished in the top 15 in greens in regulation, putts per round and putts per green in regulation.
Mickelson clearly relished the chance to play with Woods in the final round.
"I just seem more focused," he said. "I know that his level of play is so much greater when he's playing his best than anybody else's, that it just forces me to focus on my game more intently, and hit more precise shots."
Mickelson was more focused than ever in the final round, and you could tell how comfortable he was on the greens. He seemed to take less time over his putts and it paid off. Mickelson needed just 26 putts in the final round, the fewest of the week.
As Mickelson was putting together his finest final round in years, Woods looked like the Mickelson of old. Known for having a tremendous short game, Mickelson misses more short putts than any world-class player.
That was Woods on Sunday. He missed at least three putts from three feet or closer. They might not have been straight-in putts, but, still, the Tiger of old never missed those putts.
"I didn't hit the ball that bad. But I made nothing today. You saw that," Woods said. "I don't know how many three-putts I had, but I had a lot."
So Mickelson is back to his winning ways, and Woods is still searching for that right formula. How soon he finds it will be determined by how often he plays, and we got that answer on Tuesday when he announced he will play three straight PGA Tour event starting with next week's Match Play Championship.
One thing that I thought of while listening to Mickelson after Sunday's final round was the Ryder Cup. I know it was crazy when Hal Sutton paired the two together in 2004, but it is far less crazy now.
Mickelson said this of Woods after his win, "I am inspired playing with him. I think most people are, but he seems to bring out the best in me and the last four or five years, I've played some of my best golf playing with him and I really enjoy it."
I'll leave the pairings to captain Davis Love III, but why not give it a try in a fourball session?
LPGA IS IN GOOD HANDS
People have raved about the job Michael Whan has done in his 13 months as the LPGA Tour commissioner, and rightly so. Not only is the tour in good hands with him, but also with its young talent.
Tennis and gymnastics are two sports in which teenagers tend to excel. It's time to add golf to that list.
Whan made the correct move by allowing Lexi Thompson, 17, to play full time on tour a year earlier than the tour's 18-year-old minimum. While Thompson gets plenty of headlines, she isn't the only teenage star on the LPGA.
Jessica Korda, 18, went to LPGA Q School in 2010 to gain her tour card. She finished second there to earn her card for last year. The 2011 season wasn't Korda's best as she had just one top-20 finish and missed the cut in two of the three majors she competed in.
She has quickly turned her play around this year. Korda won a six-way playoff at the Women's Australian Open. The six were among only nine players who finished 72 holes under par in tough conditions at Royal Melbourne.
If the conditions weren't tough enough, the five players Korda faced in the playoff were plenty tough. Among those five were three major champions and last year's U.S. Women's Open runner-up, Hee Kyung Seo.
Korda took them all down with a birdie on the second extra hole.
Thompson and Korda, just to name two, are among those who will carry the LPGA Tour for years to come. As good as that sounds, how about this? Women's world No. 1 Yani Tseng just turned 23 three weeks ago.
It'll be hard to mess things up with that kind of young talent.
- To further my point above about the good hands the LPGA Tour is in, the top 10 in the women's world rankings average just under 26 years old and only two of the 10 are in their 30s.
- Kyle Stanley made a remarkable comeback last week, winning the Waste Management Phoenix Open after blowing the Farmers Insurance Open the week before. He took the win from Spencer Levin in Phoenix, but Levin rebounded well himself. A week after a closing 75 dropped him into third place, Levin had four sub-par rounds en route to a share of ninth place at Pebble Beach.