Dusting off a dismal performance in the Abu Dhabi desert where he missed the cut, Tiger Woods revived himself with a stunning 4-stroke win in his first start in the 2013 PGA Tour season. In only the fourth scheduled event on Tour this year, Tiger’s win at the Farmers Insurance Open at storied Torrey Pines sent a clear signal to his rivals that he’s still the man to beat even at the tender age of 37. Torrey Pines also happens to be the site of Woods’s last major championship victory in 2008. Woods registered his 75th win on Tour, with eight of these coming at Torrey Pines itself.
At one point in the day Woods had an 8-stroke lead. With a few difficult holes to overcome Woods later said: “I thought it was pretty much over.” After his victory, Woods turned a question about displaying a new sense of calmness into an answer that instead articulated his legendary competitiveness: “I’m trying to shoot the lowest score I possibly can. I don’t know if I look calm or intense or relaxed or jovial, whatever it is. I’m trying to beat everyone in this field, and that hasn’t changed and it won’t change. That’s the mentality I have,” he stressed. Needless to say there were no follow-ups on the subject.
A week later and the Tour moved to the desert in Phoenix in the US where the Waste Management Open just concluded. Not surprisingly the American Phil Mickelson shot an 11-under-par 60 to open the event followed up by a 65 and 64 to take a staggering 6 shot lead into the final round. Clearly there is no greater rival to Woods than Mickelson, who is looking to make his own mark which we’ll touch upon a little later.
Needing no reminders that he’s currently ranked second in the world behind Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy, Wood’s explained his methodology to claim the top spot once again: “That happens through a product of winning golf tournaments. That’s how I got there in the first place. That’s how he got there. It’s winning golf tournaments, being consistent. Your bad weeks are going to be top 10s, and when you win, you win. And you’ve got to be consistently winning. That’s how I got there.” His next outing will most likely be the WGC Match Play Event in Arizona in the US in the third week of February.
With a resurgent short game that went missing at critical points in the US Open and Open Championship last year, Woods now feels he’s ready to put his doubters to rest. When Woods has won at Torrey Pines in the past he’s gone on to capture at least one major championship during the year in 5 out of 6 occasions. When this was pointed out to Woods by the press it even caught him by surprise: “I didn’t know of those stats, sorry,” said a laughing Woods. No laughing matter to his competitors though.
Mickelson, a four time major winner who’s battled Woods on many an occasion was sensational himself getting to 24-under-par after 3 rounds at the Waste Management event. Ever the perfectionist, Phil was actually disappointed that he didn’t shoot a 59 instead of 60 in the first round in Phoenix: “Well, 60 is awesome, and last time I shot 60 here in ‘05 I birdied like the last three or four holes just to do that, and I was ecstatic, and I’m ecstatic to shoot 60. But there’s a big difference between 60 and 59.” With his 2010 Masters win Mickelson is the more recent major championship winner as Tiger continues his 4-year major victory slump.
Phil has played 2nd fiddle to a dominant Woods over 15 years. Phil’s also finished second in the US Open a numbing five times. Mickelson, a.k.a. Lefty kept the surging American Brandt Snedeker at bay in the final round in Phoenix on route to his 41st win on Tour. At 28-under-par Mickelson finished Snedeker off with a 4-stroke victory.
In the Tiger era no one has a resume that trumps Mickelson. He has a total of 14 top-3 finishes in major championships including his 4 major championship wins in contrast to Tiger’s 23 (14 major wins). A battle royale between the two titans of golf is brewing with both men executing expert finishes just a week apart this early in 2013.