Sep
13
2010
Mickelson’s Secrets to Battling Tiger One-On-One
By Stephanie Wei under FedEx Cup

Tiger Woods looks on angrily as Phil Mickelson watches his drive at Cog Hill

Phil Mickelson can’t seem to put together a good round on Sunday when he’s in prime position to overtake Tiger Woods as world’s number one. But if the two were playing matches when paired together, Mickelson just notched another win in the final round of the BMW Championship. Curiously enough, Lefty has thrived playing alongside Woods in recent years. On Sunday he posted his best score of the week, shooting a four-under 67, three strokes better than Tiger’s lackluster 70.

“I love playing with Tiger,” Mickelson chirped in a post-round interview. “He brings the best out of me. I certainly enjoy being paired with him. I hope the Tour does it a little more on their own, too, maybe we can play a little more together Thursday and Friday.”

Honestly? I figured it was Phil just being Phil, but then I came across the fascinating article by CBSSports.com’s Steve Elling via Geoff Shackelford. Apparently, Butch Harmon, Tiger’s coach pre-Haney, gave Mickelson the lowdown on some of Tiger’s psychological tricks. It’s much easier to take down your opponent when you know his secrets! (Not that Tiger is as intimidating as he used to be.) Here’s the scoop from Elling and CBSSports.com — enjoy:

Before large galleries, when on the green, Woods will often putt out first. That means the crowd moves to the next tee while the other player is still finishing the hole, creating an annoying distraction. That ploy wouldn’t have worked very well Sunday. Mickelson kept making putts from everywhere.

Woods likes to lag back and get to the tee box second, so that the crowd screams loudest, and last, for him.

Harmon said Woods intentionally walks quickly when playing with slow players and slowly when playing with fast competitors. Most people would never notice.

Harmon said Woods sometimes hits 3-wood off the tee on driver holes, just to make the other player have to stand around for a few minutes. “You have your momentum and adrenaline going, and he slows down and makes you wait,” the coach said.

Guess who just climbed to the top of Tiger’s “list”? The same guy who obviously doesn’t care — Butch. (Well played!) And guess who is still smiling smugly?

Oh, when reporters asked Phil if he’d like to be paired with Tiger for the fourball matches at the Ryder Cup, he replied with a look that screamed you’ve-gotta-be-kidding-me, “Come on.” Everyone laughed.

Because it was a question to generate that kind of response since everyone knows it’d be a disaster. Plus, it’s been established that Tiger only plays well in team matches when Steve Stricker is his partner, and Phil has made it clear he wants to play with Dustin Johnson.

But hey, maybe we’ll see more Tiger-Phil pairings next season. After all, Phil has a way with influencing Commish Tim Finchem’s policy-making.

[Photo by Kyle Auclair/InsideTheRopes.com]