Golf Diary: Two sides to Vijay versus Mickelson

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The Independent Online

With all the rain it would be tempting, though naff, to term this Masters "Watergate". However, here was only word being muttered in the queues yesterday - "Spikegate".

With all the rain it would be tempting, though naff, to term this Masters "Watergate". However, here was only word being muttered in the queues yesterday - "Spikegate". The unseemly row that erupted in the champions' locker-room, of all places, between Phil Mickelson and Vijay Singh had the majority here castigating one of the combatants and one only. Many believed that Mickelson had shown remarkable restraint in keeping his hands off the Fijian after he overheard him besmirching him to past champions. After all, hadn't Mickelson been erroneously distracted out there? Well, yes and no.

The general view among the players was not quite as one-eyed. "There's two things to consider," said one European professional who did not want to be identified for fear of getting involved in the snowballing furore. "It doesn't seem on to interrupt a player as he plays a hole to check his studs and you can understand why Phil was pissed off. But the most important thing is that Vijay does have a right to complain if someone isn't repairing their spike marks as they're leaving the green. He would have had a pretty good idea who it was, too. So what was Vijay supposed to do? Miss a birdie because of a bad kick and not say anything? A lot of this is just down to it being Vijay. They don't like him. Period."

And they just love "Lefty". Witness last week when The Golf Channel screened the results of their poll of the American viewers' favourite Masters moment of the last 10 years. Tiger Woods becoming the youngest winner, as well as the most commanding winner, in 1997? Er, no. Woods completing the Tiger Slam here in 2002 then, again the first in history to do so? Er, no. Instead it was Mickelson's success last year. He could have trampled his spikes all over Singh and still have been the injured party.

Time is money

You could pick up a Masters ticket for $800 (£425) here this week, which doesn't seem that much. The trouble was that the ticket was for 1949. There is now a huge market for old stubs, as there is for all merchandise, as collectors fall over themselves to grab a piece of this historic tournament. It's also a dangerous market. The most successful collector of all - an Augusta accountant who requires tickets from 1938 and '39 to complete the first known set in existence - refuses to reveal his own identity and has locked his collection away in an unmarked bank vault.

"It ruins some of the fun, not being able to look at them whenever I want," he said. "But there's plenty out there who would love to get their hands on them." Not as many, however, as those who would love to have a ticket for this year, indeed for any year, as borne out by the sad tale of the man who committed suicide a few years back when he couldn't come through with some tickets he had promised. The price on the black market for today is, in fact, around $2,000. But at least you could content yourself with being able to get your money back in about 50 years' time.

The Daly dread

John Daly's tie-in with that busty-waitress fleshpot chain otherwise known as Hooters is surely a marriage made in downtown heaven. Unveiling their new golfing representative in their Augusta branch midweek, the Hooters bigwig announced that Daly was now entitled to "free food", "free beer", and even "free flights" on the Hooters airline. "That's swell," replied Daly. "But tell me, when are you opening your first casino?" They'd be bankrupt by Christmas.

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