clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Phil Mickelson says Tiger Woods ‘owned me'

Phil Mickelson contends that none of today’s young golfers — not Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day or Rickie Fowler — can carry Tiger Woods’ jockstrap.

Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

With the Masters fast approaching and still no agenda for his return to competition, Tiger Woods has nevertheless been the subject of much conjecture and conversation of late. Not too surprising, given that the former world No. 1 is not far from any convo involving the current Big Three/Four/Five, and, well, anything concerning the game he put on the map with his otherworldly play.

And who better to wrap Tiger’s legacy in a sound bite than the only guy who can really be considered a true rival of the gone-but-not-forgotten 14-time major winner?

"I played less-than-my-best golf early, up until about 2007, when I played with Tiger," Phil Mickelson said in a recent interview with "If you look at the record, I don't know exactly what it says, but he owned me, head to head, until '07, and since then it is flipped."

Phil could definitely call Tiger his daddy before 2007, when Woods held a 10-5-3 advantage in head-to-head match ups. Since then, by my totally unofficial tally, Mickelson has gone 10-5-1 when the two have been grouped together. Mickelson’s 5-0, 19-stroke edge in the pair’s final rounds since '07 includes that lopsided 11-shot thumping of Tiger by Phil in the finale of the 2012 Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

Fresh off a runner-up finish at Pebble a week and a half ago, and playing better golf than he has since a T3 at the FedEx St. Jude Classic in June, Mickelson will be among the heavy hitters this week at the Honda Classic. Alas, with Woods "getting better" (according to Tiger insider Tim Rosaforte quoting Woods’ life coach Notah Begay III) or barely able to move after his third back surgery (unnamed sources), Phil will have to do his damnedest to keep up with the youngsters sans the presence of the legend who inspires him.

"As a whole, over the course of my career," Mickelson said, reiterating an opinion he has voiced before, "I believe that he pushed me to achieve a higher level of play."

Of course, that should not be a problem for Lefty, who regularly picks the pockets of many of today’s young guns during practice-round money games. Thanks to his mentoring program, Phil knows whereof he speaks when he talks about how the shavers compare to the superstar they grew up idolizing.

For sure, Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Rickie Fowler are huge talents, but none of them has what it takes to be the next Tiger, according to Phil.

"There is nobody in the game of golf that I have seen that is remotely close to the level of performance Tiger was in his prime," said Mickelson. "Mentally, short game, or ball striking, I don’t think anybody matches him in any of those areas. And Tiger put them all together in one to create a career that is mind-boggling in the game of golf."

Without dissing the skilled wannabes, Mickelson said he could not envisage anyone coming close to what Woods accomplished in his glory days that included achieving the Tiger Slam.

"It's difficult for me to see the game of golf returning to the level that it was at during his heyday," Mickelson said. "As great as the young players are, the level that I've seen out of him, especially when you go back to 2000 at the U.S. Open and his performance when he held all four major championships at once, I think we're decades away from anybody getting back to that level."

* * *

Frustrated by how slow live sports streaming is? This is why it's so difficult

Be sure to subscribe to SB Nation's YouTube channel for highlight videos, features, analysis and more