Phil or Tiger?
It seems ridiculous to ask whose career is better. I actually heard this topic raised on a national radio show this week just a few days after Phil lost the Open Championship to Henrik Stenson by three shots despite firing a bogey-free 65 on Sunday.
This score would have won him the Claret Jug in 141 of the 145 Open Championships. He made Royal Troon his personal playground. He was an 1/8 of an inch away from shooting the only 62 in major championship history on Thursday.
He is amazing! But, come on, to compare Phil to Tiger is absurd.
Phil’s resume is great: 5 major titles, 11 runners-up in majors (tied for second behind Jack’s 19), 42 career PGA Tour wins and ten Ryder Cup appearances.
But, come on, next to Tiger’s his just doesn’t compare.
Tiger will go down as the best, or at worst, second best, golfer in the history of the sport. You can certainly argue he’s the most influential golfer ever. Not even Jack boosted the popularity of golf to the heights that Tiger did when he became a household name in the 1990s.
Tiger brought droves of new players to the game. He was intense. He was passionate. He impacted the drama, the purse and even the television product with his determination and competitive drive. Look at the career earnings for some of the average players on Tour. They owe all of their millions to Tiger’s popularity.
Everyone had to see him. When he had on that red Nike polo on Sundays, he was must-see TV.
Tiger may be finished. He may return. Who knows. His back is balky and his confidence is shaky. Even if he never hits another competitive 9-iron in his life, his tombstone will read 79 career wins, nearly twice Phil’s total. He has won 14 majors, second only to Jack’s 18. He has only lost one 54-hole lead in a major and finished the job 15 times.
Tiger is in another stratosphere.
Phil is a T-bone. Tiger is a filet.
Phil is a Jaguar. Tiger is a Rolls Royce.
Phil is incredible. Tiger is iconic.
Believe me, going down as a Top-10 golfer of all time is nothing to sneeze at and Phil is in that conversation with some of the greatest names to ever swing a club: Palmer, Player, Trevino, Jones, Varner, Hogan, Ouimet and others.
But, come on, Tiger is on the top of that list.
It’s hard to beat No. 1.
If you’re Phil, do you feel like a failure?
It’d be hard to feel like you let yourself down after firing a 17-under par score in a major. He turned in a nearly flawless performance at the Open Championship. He was an unkind roll away from the first 62 in major history on Thursday. He maintained his lead on Friday. He braved tough conditions on Saturday and was bogey-free on Sunday.
I mean, he went 63-69-70-65!!! In a major! It was the lowest Sunday score in the field outside of one man.
Yet, he still lost to that man, another seemingly ageless 40-something in Henrik Stenson.
Do you feel like a failure, Phil?
If you do, you shouldn’t. Long after many had dismissed you as still good, but, really, just the loveable old guy who just can’t quite bomb it far enough to keep up with these ‘young guns’ like Rickie and Jason, or Rory and Jordan. You proved us wrong again.
He’s won five majors for a reason.
Phil showed the kind of savvy that we hadn’t seen out of him in a while in this pursuit of the 2016 Claret Jug. He almost had it. Of the 145 Opens in history, his -17 score would have earned him the trophy in 141 of them. He was incredible.
Just not incredible enough.
“I played a bogey-free round of 65 on the final round of a major,” Mickelson told reporters. “Usually that’s enough to do it, and I got beat. I got beat by 10 birdies. It’s not like other guys were out there doing the same thing. It was a challenging day.”
In a career that has included 11 runners-up finishes in majors, tied with Arnie for second-most behind Jack’s 19, does this one hurt the most?
He’s a gem in the sport. He’s a no-doubt Hall of Famer. He’s a living legend that came up JUST SHORT… again.
This time, Phil, don’t be sad. You gave it your all and showed those ‘young guns’ that you’ve still got it.