His “long year” got longer Sunday, as Tiger Woods’s golf game struck a new low. Yet he remains the No. 1 player (on the course) in the world because Phil Mickelson, once again, could not close the deal.
At Firestone Country Club, where he had triumphed on seven previous occasions and never left lower than fifth, Woods stunk up the place, slapping the ball around and continuing his putting woes. Tiger, low-lighted his worst performance as a professional by shooting a 77 on Sunday to finish 18 over par for the event, a mere 30 shots behind winner Hunter Mahan. Woods finished in a two-way tie for 78th place out of the 80 players that finished all four rounds. It would have been better for him if the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational had a cut line.
And as poorly as Tiger played — this says nothing about the well-documented collapse of his personal life and his unsympathetic character — Phil’s performance, in some ways, was even worse.
After winning The Masters, Mickelson, through various scenarios, has been in position the past eight times he’s ventured out on tour to supplant Woods atop the leader board.
This time, Mickelson could have vaulted past Woods and secured the No. 1 position by winning the tourney. Or if Tiger finished lower than 44th — as he was clearly bound to do heading out on both Saturday and Sunday — all Phil had to do was finish fourth or better.
Four shots off the pace, Mickelson talked about making a run on Sunday to win the tourney. Instead, he managed a 78, a round that included just one birdie and three putts from four feet on the ninth hole.
This wasn’t like blowing the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot, but come on. With everybody wondering whither Tiger, Phil largely received a pass for once again failing to come through in the clutch. Whither Mickelson’s mental toughness?
Now, Phil’s the favorite going into TNT and CBS’s coverage of the PGA championship this week. Tiger had been at a 5-1 to salvage his season by winning the final major of 2010 before his failure at Firestone. His odds have now dropped to 12-1.
While the networks would love strong performances from Tiger (Woods’s finale was finished two hour before CBS came on air Sunday) and Lefty, odds are both may find it rough — or in the woods — at Whistling Straits.