THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – Tiger beat Phil on Sunday at the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP @ SHERWOOD, but neither walked away with much to smile about.
Normally it would be a pairing to savor on a Sunday when Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson go head to head, but sitting well back in the tournament they failed to ignite and were both bested by Adam Long, the third member of the trio.
Woods cobbled together a 2-over 74 to finish the week at 1 under, 22 shots behind Patrick Cantlay’s winning score. Mickelson slashed around for a 6-over 78 that saw him well back at 3 over. For the record, Long posted a 69 and finished his week at 4 under.
Woods, the defending champion from his record tying 82nd PGA TOUR win in Japan a year ago, now must decide whether or not to play the Vivint Houston Open the week prior to trying to defend his 2019 Masters title.
Had he played well at Sherwood, Woods admitted he would likely skip Houston but given the lack of form he is considering making a rare stop to play the week prior to getting to Augusta National.
In his 20 Masters appearances as a professional, Woods has never played the week prior. In fact the only time Woods has played the week before a major is for the PGA Championship which has routinely been preceded by a World Golf Championships event.
“Probably the next couple days. I’ll make the decision soon. I’m not going to wait around on that decision,” Woods said of his plans. “We were talking about it this morning… our progression and our training sessions and we’ll be in the gym tomorrow afternoon and get back after it that way, but I’ll make a decision quickly on whether or not I’m going to play Houston or not.”
Woods didn’t take advantage of the par 5s at Sherwood, which is unique in that it offers five of them on the par-72 layout. He was just 4 under on the 20 attempts over the tournament and his 4.8 averaged ranked T72 in the 77-man field.
“I played the par 5s awful. They’re all reachable and I did not do that well this week. I did not drive the ball and didn’t hit my irons close enough consistently,” he said. “The only thing I can take out of this week that I did positively I feel like each and every day and pretty much every hole is I putted well. I feel like I rolled it great. Unfortunately most of them were for pars and a couple for bogeys here and there, but not enough for birdies.”
Woods said he will now focus his attention on hitting high-ball draws as he prepares for the COVID-19-rescheduled November Masters. That shot shape, and others, were the topic of discussion between he and Mickelson throughout the final round on Sunday.
“We were talking about the Champions Tour a little bit. I said, ‘Hey, man, I’m still five‑plus years away,’” Woods smiled after hearing first-hand all about Mickelson’s success in winning his first two starts on the over-50 circuit.
“We touched on here and there about our (Masters) prep, what is it going to be like, is it going to be like when Zach (Johnson) won when you can’t go for any of the par 5s in two; is it going to be like that, that long, that soft, that hard, that windy. You just never know. It could be in the 70s, it could be in the 30s, you just never know.”
Mickelson was one of the few players to play the par 5s (4.9) worse than Woods. He will either play in Houston or in the PGA TOUR Champions event the same week in Arizona.
“Disappointing week, but fun. I love the golf course and learned a few things, got a few things out of the week, but all in all, disappointed with the way I played obviously,” Mickelson said after a final round that included three double bogeys.
“I have some pretty good direction on where I need to go with my game and I’ll take this week to work on it and try to apply it the week before. I’ll go home, talk to Amy, see what course is best suited to get me ready.”
Without on-course spectators, the old magic was harder to muster for the old foes who together have chalked up 126 TOUR victories. Mickelson believes both still have the capabilities to add to their impressive career totals, including the eight green jackets they’ve won.
“We didn’t play this week the way we wanted to,” he admitted. “(But) I think it’s still in there, I just think it’s harder to get four solid rounds without the mistakes, and at this level the quality guys are so good that you just can’t make the mistakes.”
Source: PGA tour