Pebble Beach, CA - After watching Phil’s masterful performance on Sunday, where he dominated the course, the field, and Mr. Tiger Woods, this Urban Golfer called the other Urban Golfer and said, “I have nothing to write about this week.” The Riviera run-up article was supposed to be a tough if not scathing critique of Phil’s game, his desire to win anything but a major, and whether he is healthy or driven enough to play at the level that, well he played at on Sunday. Wasn’t Phil the guy that stumbled around the Humana, missed the cut at his hometown Torrey and played uninspired golf in Phoenix?Sunday at Pebble was Phil at his finest. No letdowns; no missed puts; no 38 on the inward nine. Phil put together a magical 18-hole round that stunned the sports world and more importantly his playing partner—whose face when congratulating Lefty on the 18th green had not looked so bad since Elin took an 8-iron to it. Let’s examine what took us from a pre-fourth-round re-enthronement of Woods to watching a stunned and dazed also-ran meekly shaking the hand of a brilliant and triumphant Phil Mickelson.
Pebble Beach Hole 5—Phil’s Seven Iron. One of the tougher scoring holes on the course, Phil put his tee shot within two feet of the hole. In boxing, this was the first clean face shot to the opponent after working the body for a couple of rounds. A dazed Tiger hit his tee shot to about 12 feet from the hole, missed the putt—a very poor attempt. Phil’s kick in put him in a tie with Tiger.
Pebble Beach Hole 6—Phil’s Eagle. Both Phil and Tiger hit 3 woods off the tee leaving 240ish and 220 to the hole respectively. Phil laced a hybrid to 20 feet while Tiger’s pured-3 iron unluckily ran to the back of the green, leaving a difficult two-putt, which he accomplished. Phil sank the eagle putt. Would have loved to see this live, but CBS forced us to watch the free-throw contest that made up the final 2 game minutes (25 real-time minutes) of the Michigan/Illinois basketball game. Tiger goes on to miss a two-foot par putt on the famed par-three 7th.
Pebble Beach Hole 12—The Putt. Phil hit a very poor tee shot well short of the green and front left bunker. Tiger hit his to the aforementioned trap. Phil follows up his tee shot with a poor flop leaving more than 30 feet for par. Tiger miraculously holes his from the sand for birdie. Tiger has joined the fight!!
Phil lays a haymaker, burying his putt and basically ends any chance Tiger has at catching him.
Pebble Beach Hole 13—The Approach. Tiger hammered his drive, but ends up in an unfilled divot. Phil finds the fairway as well. Phil massages his second shot to two feet—playing it low into the bank of the green, taking the spin off and letting it bleed to the hole. The shot was perfection and resulted in another kick-in birdie. Now the field can’t catch Phil.
Pebble Beach Hole 18—The Stare. After grooving his second shot—a low baby draw—to a comfortable 120 yards from the green. The camera caught Phil staring out in to the Pacific. Who knows what was going through his head? I’m sure it was a myriad of things, but a part of it had to be about thankfulness: Thankful to have the kind of game that when all the hard work put in on ranges and greens from early mornings to late evenings coalesces with a shred of luck results in 4 hours of brilliant golf, triumphs over rivals, reflective stares from Pebble’s 18th and loving embraces from a wife after a round well played—oh and the ride home on the Gulfstream too.
Tiger left himself a three footer to finish in the top ten… he missed.What does Phil’s performance at the AT&T National Pro-Am portend for the rest of the year? Not sure. I hope it means more exciting Sundays like this past one. I hope it means a great year for Phil and strong performances from him at each of the majors. I also hope it further stirs the competitive juices in Tiger and pushes him to find the inner or old Tiger that we so dearly want to return. Do I think Tiger will miss multiple putts within five feet in one round? No. What I am really worried about is whether he even has the game in his bag to beat Phil when Lefty posts a final day 64. Time will tell and thankfully Tiger has recently added some additional tournaments to his schedule for us, and him, to find out.Rich Lerner, a favorite of this Urban Golfer, put together another phenomenal essay on Golf Central. His essay tied in Valentine’s Day and what players, both pro and amateur, love about this often befuddling and frustrating game. Youtube it if you can. Below is the portion of the essay where Phil and Tiger why they each love the game… pretty interesting.
“After his third round, I interviewed Phil for a simple story on what he loves about the game, and here’s what he said: “I love the 16th hole at Cypress Point because of the way it brings nature and golf together. I love the 13th tee at Augusta because it’s quiet and secluded and it gives you a moment to gather your thoughts before you play the critical six-hole stretch that hopefully leads to a green jacket. I love everything about the game of golf. I love the serenity it gives me, the work ethic it promotes. I love growing up on the golf course, the friendships that are made, the mental and physical challenges, I love everything about it.” As he waited to hit his third shot to 18 on Sunday, the CBS cameras zoomed tight on Phil with a satisfied smile, staring at the Pacific – it was the picture of a man very much in love with golf. Shooting 64 at Pebble will make a man fall head over heels.
After his third round, I asked Tiger what he loves about the game, and here’s what he said: “I love to learn. I love to compete. I love to win.”
The Urban Golfer
read more: Ful-Philled at Pebble Beach