PGA Championship 2022: Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson reverse roles a year after Lefty’s shock win

It’s impossible to think of Tiger Woods playing the 2022 PGA Championship and not consider the absence of his most acclaimed contemporary, Phil Mickelson. It’s also impossible to think of any of them and not consider how absurd it would have been to suggest, 51 weeks after Mickelson won the 2021 event, that Tiger would be the one to get the prep work early in Southern Hills while Lefty went on a month-long sabbatical for reasons unrelated to health.

The two have always been as intertwined as they are contrasting. Literal books have been written on the subject, and you can list the ways they are polar opposites almost reflexively. They make oil and water appear compatible.

Tiger, right-handed, is unique and always lonely. Mickelson, left-handed, is almost unable to understand himself outside the context of always having people around him. Tiger is conservative and almost low-key on the field. Mickelson is, uh, no. Tiger pushed his body to the limit and betrayed him. Mickelson has rarely missed time due to injury. If you drew contemporary rivals this divergent, no one would believe you.

Their only common bond has been success: winning, making money, and doing it for an extraordinarily long time. As their peers have aged in other lifetimes of golf beyond the PGA Tour, both have endured excellence. Despite a combined age of 97, Woods and Mickelson have both he won major championship trophies more recently than Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas. That’s an absolutely remarkable feat for anyone, much less two guys who started playing PGA Tour events when their younger peers were in diapers (or not yet born).

Mickelson was floating in the water at this time last year. He entered the week of the 2021 PGA Championship without finishing in the top 20 since August 2020. He was playing poor golf and had more missed cuts (three) than he did in the top 25 (two) in the seven events leading up to the second older than that year. . When he went to Kiawah Island, he was a champion in name only (and a great champion), and yet that week he did the only thing he had done in the previous three decades. He appeared. He went to the first tee on Thursday and believed that something special was going to happen. It was a comically deceptive level of self-confidence, to be sure, but it worked, too.

This time, 52 weeks ago, you would have howled at the thought of Mickelson winning that PGA. You probably would have asked for my job if I had predicted it. And you would have done well to do so. Then, impossibly, Lefty defeated Brooks Koepka and Louis Oosthuizen in a venue built for men half his age.

Woods, meanwhile, was just trying to walk around this time last year. He recently recounted days in his backyard where he lay on the lawn listening to birdsong, just elated to be alive.

This is how they both operate. Tiger takes time to recover and shows up when he’s ready. Lefty never stops showing up. His win tally is, in a way, a war of attrition. Woods has appeared much less than Mickelson throughout his career (the current world tournament tally is for Mickelson, 712-419), but he has won much more when he has been there (22% to 7% for Tiger). ).

Phil’s great ability is showing. Tiger’s is decimating the field when he does.

The second half of Tiger’s story is the opposite of Phil’s. When Woods played, he was great. That has always been true. He really has never had periods of bad play in the last 25 years. However, he has had many periods where he has not played at all, for a variety of reasons including, but not limited to, injuries, scandals, recovery and simply wanting to be with his family rather than wanting to perform for a nation. sporty.

As Mickelson kept showing up, Woods kept disappearing.

Now, it’s Lefty who hasn’t been heard from in months. The contrast continues with Mickelson and Woods, except they have completely swapped roles. Just like with Tiger last year, we don’t know when Lefty will resurface, when we’ll hear from him again, Yes We will hear from him again. There is a tragedy in Mickelson’s story with which Woods can surely relate.

What we do know is that you can’t win if you don’t compete, and you can’t compete if you don’t show up. If Mickelson taught us anything about the historical greats at the PGA Championship last year, it was exactly that.

Woods shows up at the PGA Championship the same way Mickelson showed up at last year’s event: with no chance of winning. He is showing up because something could happen. He shows up because he loves golf and takes his status as champion of this event very seriously.

Woods claims he doesn’t show up unless he thinks he has a chance to win, but there’s nothing about his play over the past 18 months or his performance at the Masters to suggest he even has a sentence.

On the other hand, that same sentence could have been written about Mickelson a year ago.

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