PGA Championship 2022: Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson turn the tables a year after Lefty’s shocking win

It’s impossible to think of Tiger Woods playing the 2022 PGA Championship without considering the absence of his most acclaimed contemporary, Phil Mickelson. It’s also impossible to think of either and how absurd it would have been to insinuate 51 weeks ago after Mickelson won the 2021 event that Tiger would be the one to get early prep work in Southern Hills, while Lefty continued a month-long sabbatical for non-health reasons.

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

Tiger, right-handed, is unique and always the loner. Mickelson, left-handed, is almost incomprehensible outside the context of always having people around. Tiger is conservative and almost understated on the track. Mickelson is, uh, not. Tiger pushed his body to the limit and it betrayed him. Mickelson has rarely missed time through injury. If you were so diverse today’s rivals, no one would believe you.

Their only common bond is success: winning, making money and doing it exceptionally long. Because their peers have achieved a different golf life than the PGA Tour, they have both endured excellence. Despite a combined age of 97, Woods and Mickelson both won major championship trophies more recently than Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas. That’s an absolutely remarkable achievement for anyone, let alone two guys who started playing PGA Tour events when their younger peers were wearing diapers (or weren’t born yet).

Mickelson was treading water at this time last year. He entered the week of the 2021 PGA Championship without a top 20 finish since August 2020. He played bad golf and had more missed cuts (three) than top 25s (two) in the seven events leading up to his second major. that year . When he went to Kiawah Island, he was a champion in name only (and a great one), and yet that week he did the only thing he’d done for the past three decades. He showed up. He went to the first tee on Thursday and believed something special was about to happen. It was a comically misleading level of confidence, to be sure, but it also worked.

This time 52 weeks ago you would have cried at the idea of ​​Mickelson winning that PGA. If I had predicted it, you probably would have called my job. And you would have been right to do that. Then, impossibly, Lefty Brooks knocked out Koepka and Louis Oosthuizen in a location built for men half his age.

Meanwhile, Woods just tried to run this time last year. He recently recounted days in his backyard where he lay on the turf and listened to the birds chirping, just elated to be alive.

That’s how they both work. Tiger takes his time to recover and shows up when he’s ready. Lefty never stops showing up. His victory count is, in a sense, a battle of attrition. Woods has shown a lot less than Mickelson over the course of his career (current worldwide tournament count goes to Mickelson, 712-419), but he has won a lot more when he was there (22% to 7% for Tiger).

Phil’s great skill shows up. Tiger’s decimates the field if he does.

The back half of Tiger’s story is the opposite of Phil’s. When Woods played, he was great. That has always been true. He’s never really played badly in the last 25 years. However, he has had plenty of periods where he didn’t play at all, for a variety of reasons including but not limited to injuries, scandals, recovery and simply wanting to be with his family more than performing for a sporting country.

As Mickelson kept appearing, Woods kept disappearing.

Now it’s Lefty who hasn’t been heard from for months. The contrast continues with Mickelson and Woods, except they have completely switched roles. As with Tiger last year, we don’t know when Lefty will show up again, when we’ll hear from him again, if we will hear from him again. Mickelson’s story has a tragedy that Woods can certainly identify with.

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 historically great players in the PGA Championship last year, it was just that.

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

Woods claims he won’t show up to play unless he thinks he has a shot at winning, but there’s nothing about his playing over the past 18 months or his performance at the Masters to indicate he even has a prayer .

But again, the exact same sentence could have been written about Mickelson this time around a year ago.

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