LEMONT IL - SEPTEMBER 12: Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods pass each other by on the second hole during the final round of the BMW Championship at Cog Hill Golf & Country Club on September 12 2010 in Lemont Illinois. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
As the Masters elder statesmen, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are mentoring younger golfers about how to prepare for Augusta National -- only they may not be sharing every state secret with their eager pupils.
No doubt, Sean O'Hair soaks up every drop of wisdom that Tiger Woods cares to dole out about how to make one's way around Augusta National Golf Club. And Keegan Bradley hangs on to the bon mots from his sensei, Phil Mickelson, as the two of them play practice rounds ahead of the Masters.
In a custom almost as old as the Masters itself, the two master mentors are helping their charges learn which flags to go for ("If you hit it really close all the time you're okay," a smiling Woods told reporters Tuesday), and which greens to be happy about leaving with par ("I've made huge numbers [playing No. 15 as a must-birdie hole], and it has cost me a number of Masters," Mickelson said).
Between them, Woods (four) and Mickelson (three) own seven green jackets and they could likely credit at least a couple of them to the enlightenment gleaned from their iconic predecessors. Woods, for one, was like a sponge when he sought "to gain as much intel as I possibly can" during a 1995 practice round with Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer.
"I'm asking them on every hole, ‘What do you do here? What do you do here? What do you do here?'" he said, noting that the legends' perspectives helped change the way he viewed the course.
Now it's time for Woods and Mickelson to do the same with their avid students, and Woods, especially, seemed to relish the role of a somewhat elder statesman.
"Yeah, I do, I do help them," Woods said. "[Knowledge is] not something that we hold and are going to keep sacred. We pass it on from one generation to the next. That's what we do."
Mickelson played tutor as well. Keegan Bradley seems to be as awed of Lefty's Masters planning as Woods had been of Jack's and Arnie's.
"There's not one thing that I can point out that Phil has helped me on. It's one or two things per hole really," said the reigning PGA champ who'll try to make it two majors in a row when he plays the tournament for the first time this week. "I found myself just kind of watching Phil, what he was doing kind of off to the side, just seeing how he prepared for this tournament."
With the younger guys eager for as much help as they could get before stepping to the first tee on Thursday, Mickelson, who confirmed he wanted to win his fourth Masters "a lot ... an awful lot," suggested that he might not be willing to divulge every state secret just yet.
"You only share a little bit," Mickelson said to laughter from the media, "and you want them to know that you've got an advantage."