The Week

Jan. 28, 2002
Jan. 28, 2002

Table of Contents
Jan. 28, 2002

The Week

By Sal Johnson Edited By Alan Shipnuck

Phil Mickelson made up for lost time with a win at the Hope

This is an article from the Jan. 28, 2002 issue Original Layout

Phil Mickelson makes news even in absentia, and when he does
show up on Tour he tends to produce bold-faced headlines. If
Tiger Woods is this generation's Nicklaus--an automaton of
unequaled proficiency--Mickelson has become a latter-day Palmer,
a hot-blooded and unpredictable performer whose defeats are as
memorable as his victories. Mickelson's play teeters between the
spectacular and the maddening, often on the same hole, and last
week's victory at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic was a vintage

Mickelson, resurfacing after a five-month layoff, opened with an
auspicious 64. He shot the same number on Sunday to force a
playoff, with David Berganio Jr., which Mickelson won by nearly
holing a wedge shot on the first extra hole. This followed an
outrageous flop shot on the final hole of regulation that can be
described only as Mickelsonian (page G14). It was an important
finishing kick, erasing some of the doubt from a 2001 season
during which Mickelson dramatically raised the level of his game
but too often stumbled on Sunday. "This is a year that I've been
very much looking forward to," he said Sunday evening. "I feel
as if my game has slowly evolved to get where it is today."

This makeover--toward a shorter, tighter swing and more precise
wedge game--began in the wake of the 1999 U.S. Open, a near miss
that heralded Mickelson as a consistent contender at the majors:
He has top 10s in seven of the last 12, though he has famously
never won. Even so, Mickelson remains golf's most potent
week-in-and-week-out force. In 2001 he led the Tour in eagles
(20) and in birdies per round (4.49), and at the Hope blasted
his way to 35 birdies in 90 holes. Mickelson's brand of
smash-mouth forces comparisons to a freewheeling lefthander from
another sport. "He's like Randy Johnson," says Steve Loy,
Mickelson's agent. "Phil rolls up birdies the way Johnson does
strikeouts. When he's good, he's overpowering, but when he's
bad, anything can happen."

On Sunday, Mickelson uncorked a couple of loose shots that
could've been fatal. On the 18th hole, a 532-yard par-5 at PGA
West in La Quinta, Calif., he flared a four-iron that came to
rest only a pace from the water's edge. On the same hole in
sudden death, he yanked his drive into a bunker, momentarily
ceding the advantage to Berganio. Mickelson overcomes these
lapses in technique with fearlessness--he's 5-1 in playoffs, not
to mention 3-0 in Ryder Cup singles.

The victory was the 20th of Mickelson's career; Woods (29 wins)
is the only other player under 50 to have reached the big
two-oh, which is typical. No matter what Mickelson does, he
always seems to be trailing Woods. However, the gap is
narrowing. Last year Lefty reduced Woods's lead in the World
Ranking by more than 60%, and made a huge dent in the money list
deficit (from $4.4 million to $1.3 million). Woods may be the
best player in golf, but it's worth noting that in 2001
Mickelson was No. 1 in the all-around stat, and this didn't
include bonus points for being a good guy. Long after the final
putt dropped on Sunday, Mickelson spent a half-hour signing more
autographs than Woods will proffer in a season. Mickelson is
also the Tour's most high-profile family man. Part of the reason
for his extended off-season was the case of colic his
12-week-old daughter, Sophia, has been suffering. "I was able to
help out a lot," says Mr. Mom.

From the Hope the Mickelsons left for Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.,
to spend the first night in their new house. "We're keeping our
fingers crossed that we'll be able to turn on the lights," the
missus, Amy, said on Sunday evening.

Not to worry. When Phil Mickelson is around, there's never an
absence of electricity.

Bottom LINES

by Sal Johnson

With his 20th career victory Phil Mickelson earned a lifetime
exemption to the PGA Tour.... Eleven of Mickelson's wins have
come on the West Coast swing, which leaves him three behind
Arnold Palmer, the leader in that category.... MasterCard
Championship winner Tom Kite's opening 63 (nine under) was the
lowest score in the 19-year history of the event.... Kite is the
fourth man to win what is commonly referred to as the tournament
of champions on the regular and the Senior tours, joining Don
January, Al Geiberger and Jack Nicklaus.... Dunhill Championship
winner Justin Rose, 21, shot a 20-under 268 in the event last
year, too, but finished one stroke behind Adam Scott.... Rose
missed the cut in his first 21 starts on the European tour. The
Dunhill was his 81st.

O. B.

Think Tiger Woods already is omnipresent? Just wait. "Our goal is
to make Tiger as much a part of bar culture as a jukebox and a
pool table," says Bob Cooney, VP of business development for
Global VR, a San Jose-based manufacturer of coin-operated arcade
games that this spring will introduce a barroom spinoff of the
popular PC-based video game EA Sports Tiger Woods PGA Tour. A
long overdue competitor to the ubiquitous Golden Tee Golf--which
has made a watering hole hero out of Peter Jacobsen, of all
people--Tiger Woods features a trackball interface, which allows
players to fade or draw shots, and brings an element of power to
the game. Woods's four-year deal with Global VR is a paltry (for
him) $750,000 per, but the eponymous protagonist will, according
to Cooney, enjoy profit participation. As many as 100,000
machines could be distributed, all with built-in modems allowing
sodden enthusiasts to be linked in an on-line tournament. Cooney
estimates that as many as five million players could compete for
a $1 million purse, at $5 apiece, which is where Woods would cash
in. --Last week at the Hope, Kirk Triplett's name was misspelled
TRIPRETT on the back of his golf bag. "I'm sure the guy stitching
it got a phone call in the middle of the job," Triplett
says. --Miami attorney Jack Thompson is organizing a boycott of the
Golf Channel in protest of its removal of popular on-air talent
Peter Kessler. Thompson--who was named Arts Co-Censor of the Year
in 1992 by the ACLU for his work in getting rapper Ice-T's
controversial song Cop Killer pulled from record stores--claims he
has had no contact with Kessler and is merely an outraged viewer
pining for his favorite host. "I'd like Peter to get his chair
back," says Thompson, who can be reached at, "or, at the very least, hit the Golf
Channel upside the head for treating him like crap." It's a mad,
mad world. --Actor Joe Pesci on playing in the same group at the
Hope with 'NSync heartthrob Justin Timberlake (above): "Some
parents offered me up to $200 to get an autograph for their kid,"
Pesci said on Saturday. "They haven't come up with the right
number yet, but if they do, they'll get it."

COLOR PHOTO: DARREN CARROLL Though No. 2 in the World Ranking, Mickelson leads Woods in wins in 2002. COLOR PHOTO: J.D. CUBAN

Trust Me

Ty Tryon will wait longer for his first pro victory than the most
recent 17-year-old phenom, Justin Rose, who won last week after
3 1/2 years of toil as a pro. Rose, a Brit, was a more
accomplished amateur and in Europe faced thinner fields.


DURING PRO-AM tournaments like the Hope and Pebble Beach, does TV
devote too much, too little, or just enough airtime to the

LAST WEEK: Did teen phenom Ty Tryon, who turned down $1 million
to play in the Feb. 7-10 Dubai Desert Classic so that he could
enter that week's Honda Classic, choose wisely?

Yes 45% No 55%

--Based on 2,377 responses to our informal survey.