Tiger Woods had a better day at the office on Saturday than his long-time rival Phil Mickelson, but Lefty’s indescribable wedge shot from the dirt off the green on the par-3 11th impressed even the world's No. 1.
"Yeah, he wasn’t playing well today," Woods told the Golf Channel’s Steve Sands about the trick shot Phil the Thrill pulled off after pulling a 4-iron way right on the 235-yard, par-3 11th.
"He hit a lot of bad shots. He had a two-way miss going, and the shot that he hit at 11 -- Bones [Mickelson’s caddie, Jim "Bones" Mackay] said it wasn’t a great lie and he took a pretty good cut at it, pulled it off," said Woods, who regained the upper hand in his game-within-the-game, one-on-one competition with Mickelson by shooting a 4-under 67 to Phil’s even-par.
"That’s what [Phil] does, and it was pretty impressive to see the up and downs he made through that little stretch," Woods said. "He holed a few putts, kept his round together."
The "little stretch" Woods referred to was a run on the back nine from holes 10 through 16 in which Mickelson made two bogeys and a double before rebounding with two birdies to end his afternoon and move to 8-under. Mickelson is tied for ninth, five shots behind leader Sergio Garcia head into Sunday’s third round.
And while he saved par at the 11th, it took some awesome scrambling after Mickelson watched his tee shot sail over the spectators lining the fairway and mouthed, "oh, my goodness. Hit a tree. Hit it."
Mickelson and Woods (7-under and T20 after two sessions at TPC Boston) finished their two-day star turns (with "third wheel" Adam Scott along for the ride) with birdies on No. 18, though their balls arrived at the bottom of the cup from different angles. Mickelson’s came after his second shot from long range found a green-side bunker and he knocked it close from the sand, while Woods bombed in a 35-footer from the lower tier.
"That was nice to get," Woods, who needed 29 putts on Saturday but missed a number of short birdie attempts, said about his putt on 18 from downtown. "it was basically the only putt I made all day so it was kind of nice."
Mickelson, who played out of trouble for almost the entire back nine, pretty much concurred.
"That was one of my best moments right there," he told Sands about his birdie-saving putt at 18, "because I was playing terrible and I shot even-par. I fought hard."
"Throughout 72 holes, throughout the course of my career, it happens where you just kind of lose it for a little bit," said Mickelson, who owned up to a bit of a brain cramp on his final hole (No. 9) in Friday’s opening round, when he hooked his tee shot practically into Rhode Island but managed to shoot a 63.
The birdie putt on his 36th hole, after the hash he made of much of his incoming nine, Mickelson augured, could end up propelling him to another near-59-like round on Sunday and into the winner’s circle on Monday. If so, he said he would credit his ability to gut it out down the stretch on Saturday.
"I fought hard in the interim and was able to find it there in the end, giving me confidence heading into the weekend," Mickelson said. "But more than that, it kept me within striking distance."
"I could have easily shot myself out of the tournament, knocking them in the hazard, I don’t know how many times, and shot even-par today," the five-time major champion added. "If I go on and play the way I believe I am going to this weekend, I am going to look back on those nine holes as the key to the entire tournament."
As for that shot at No. 11, Sands asked Mickelson to describe it for those at home aching to attempt similar heroics.
"I could describe it," Mickelson allowed, "but then I’d have to kill you."
No, Amanda’s dad absolutely did not say that. But he did offer the first part of that sentence, which he ended by noting, rightly so, "nobody’s going to understand that."
Indeed, the southpaw averred he had never seen another golfer, anywhere, come close to such a feat, which had Woods and Scott joking about it as they walked to the 12th tee.
"Yeah, I’ve not seen anybody else hit that shot," Scott said. "To be able to spit it back from that distance, and lob it, and all that stuff, it was a really good one. It’s one that I don’t like having to hit a lot because it’s a tough one to hit, but when it comes off right, it sure looks good."
Even the perpetrator of such wizardry struggled to find the words to sum up his accomplishment.
"It’s just, it’s a," Mickelson began. "It was a really good shot."
Amen to that.