The question for you is do you root for Tiger or do you root for Phil? Likely you don’t root for both. In a strange way us golf fans tend to pick one or the other of these guys, and if you are in a group, a debate will likely ensue about who is the best. Tiger is consistent and dominant in the same way that Phil is go-for-broke and approachable. They truly are almost opposite people who are fantastically great at the same game.
I think the media fluffs up their relationship trying to spark a rivalry between them so there is something to talk about. I think they probably are just fine with each other and in the Ryder Cup locker room probably consider themselves friends. The irony in that statement is that they are terrible Ryder Cup partners (just ask Hal Sutton) because they are total opposites in how they approach the game.
Tiger won the 2006 Open Championship hitting irons off all but one tee. Can anyone imagine Phil doing that? Phil wants to hit the driver long and win with flair. Tiger seems as if he couldn’t care less about the flair and would win in any way or fashion. Tiger dominated for years with the stinger, I don’t think Phil has the stinger or cares to hit it. Off the course Phil sticks around for hours to sign autographs, is emotional with his wife and his family, and is always quick with a smile. At every event I have been at Phil will search out kids and give them a ball when he’s finished with it, always bringing a bright smile to their faces. Tiger rarely has a smile and signs autographs typically after he plays well and rarely for long. Their approach to golf and even life are truly opposite.
The thing that always surprises me, is really what makes Tiger great is his capability to block everything out and focus it seems beyond what is humanly possible. Every five footer for Tiger is automatic. This sort of focus seems not to work for Phil. When Phil is at his best he is laughing waving at the crowd, joking with Bones. The complete opposite of Tiger. Phil over a three footer makes me hold my breath. Tiger with a 54-hole lead is automatic. Book it. Phil is going to make it beyond exciting. Every hole is going to be an adventure and a disaster is around almost every corner.
I believe this is at the root in how some of us choose Tiger and others cheer for Phil. It represents the differences in our personalities. For me, it is example of opposites, I am actually very much like Tiger, consistent, driven, but I love to root for Phil because I appreciate his style. I like that he is having fun, appreciates the fans, and goes for broke. In many things in life we lay up, because it is the prudent choice, it is what we are suppose to do. Phil almost never lays up. He goes for broke, especially when it isn’t the prudent choice.
My friend, the Tiger fan, roots for Tiger because he appreciates the dedication to greatness that Tiger has. He appreciates how hard Tiger practices, and the mechanical way Tiger approaches each shot. He enjoys that Tiger put Jack’s record as his goal as a young child and has been working towards it ever since. He told me whilst we watched the U.S. Open in 2008 that Tiger was going to make that putt, because Tiger is dependable in that way.
Quite honestly this debate was far more clear prior to Tiger’s fall from grace due to a moving fire hydrant. Today, because Tiger no longer dominates in the way that he did, his fan base has changed a little. People who used to be ardent fans are now not so much and maybe some on the fence about him now root for him. He now is in the top five most hated athletes and hasn’t won a major in over three years. He certainly is not as dependable as he once was. Certainly he will win a multiple times and I believe he will once again find his game and win one or more majors. He is simply too good not too. Tiger showed such great form last week at Bay Hill that I am sure many will have him as the favorite at Augusta and for the next couple of majors.
Whoever you root for, Tiger and Phil have provided all of us some of the best moments in golf history. They never really had a time other than one year at Doral where they were both peaking and battled down the stretch. There is still a chance for that but as both of them move farther from their prime the chances are reducing.
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