Mickelson guru's gibes whet Tiger's appetite

As if there was not enough tension filling the air here in readiness for tomorrow's rare major head-to-head between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, then the latter's camp decided yesterday to shoehorn in a few more size 11s by claiming "nobody can beat our boy when he's at his best".

Talk about waving your baby above a saltwater crocodile. In fairness to Woods, though, he did not bite too furiously when told about Dave Pelz's comments after his US PGA Championship practice round. But then, this ultimate competitor always prefers to devour his opponents out on the course and his curt response to Mickelson's coach - "I am pretty tough to beat when I am playing well, too" - was surely a preview of his menu for the first and second rounds in Chicago.

The two finest players on the planet have only partnered each other once before in a major - at the Masters five years ago, when Woods won - and, starting on the first tee at 8.30am tomorrow, the world No 1 is determined to put the world No 2 in his place again. For a man who handles what he perceives as "disrespect" as kindly as the Corleones once did, Pelz's remarks are all the incentive he needs.

Speaking to an American reporter, Pelz declared: "When Phil's at his best, nobody can beat him."

"Does that include Tiger?" he was asked.

"You bet it does," Mickelson's guru replied, before explaining exactly why: "Phil's short game is the best in the world. He doesn't have a serious weakness inside 150 yards. Phil putts more consistently than Tiger does. He has more imagination and a few more shots around the green."

Pelz's comments were strange for a more important reason than their unsubstantiated content. Their timing was incredibly incendiary, which seems the last thing Mickelson needs in his current state. Since his final-hole capitulation at the US Open, the defending champion's form has fallen to earth so dramatically that last week he missed his first cut of the year at the International.

In direct contrast, Woods has returned to orbit, with his Open victory being followed up by another at the Buick a fortnight ago. This was the 30-year-old's 50th PGA Tour title and reaffirmed his status as the acknowledged master of the fairways.

Mickelson appeared embarrassed by the statements, not least because he and Woods have been getting on much better recently, and sought to make a joke of it. "What can I say about my man? He's enthusiastic," he said. "I've tried not to give you, the media, too much to run with, so I'm paying other people to do it." It was a brave attempt, but one that he knew was ultimately flawed. The damage had already been done.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence