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September 13, 2010

Truth & Rumors: How Phil learned to beat Tiger

Posted at 12:18 PM by Mike Walker | Categories: Corey Pavin, Jack Nicklaus, Ryder Cup, Tiger Woods

Phil Mickelson’s rivalry with Tiger Woods used to call to mind the rivalry between the hammer and the nail, with Woods regularly getting the best of Mickelson. All that changed in 2007 when Mickelson began working with Butch Harmon, and Harmon told Mickelson all of Woods’s gamesmanship tricks, according to Steve Elling of CBSSports.com.

This spring at the Players Championship, Harmon detailed four examples of Woods' slick tricks to CBSSports.com. A few tricks of the trade, Tiger style:

Before large galleries, when on the green, Woods will often putt out first. That means the crowd moves to the next tee while the other player is still finishing the hole, creating an annoying distraction. That ploy wouldn't have worked very well Sunday. Mickelson kept making putts from everywhere.

Woods likes to lag back and get to the tee box second, so that the crowd screams loudest, and last, for him.

Harmon said Woods intentionally walks quickly when playing with slow players and slowly when playing with fast competitors. Most people would never notice.

Harmon said Woods sometimes hits 3-wood off the tee on driver holes, just to make the other player have to stand around for a few minutes. "You have your momentum and adrenaline going, and he slows down and makes you wait," the coach said.

Paired with Woods on Sunday, Mickelson shot 67 to Woods’s 70, and Elling notes that in the last eight times the two rivals have been paired together, Woods has won the matchup only once. Asked to explain the turnaround, Mickelson said, “I enjoy it. [Woods] certainly brings the best out in me. That wasn't the case earlier on. But I feel like he gets the best out of me now.”

God and man at Wales

John Paul Newport of The Wall Street Journal addresses the evangelical elephant in the Ryder Cup Team USA room: the born-again Christian beliefs of captain Corey Pavin and the fact that three of his four captain’s picks are regulars at the Tour’s bible-study group.

No one but stray bloggers has alleged that Mr. Pavin made his decisions based on religion—as golf picks they're fairly unassailable. But the subject is close to the surface.

"It's going to be an issue, for sure. The British tabloids will hop on it and hit it hard," predicted Paul Azinger, the 2008 U.S. Ryder Cup captain and himself a born-again Christian.

Mr. Pavin declined to comment about how or whether his religious beliefs will be a factor in how he captains the team. Through a spokesman, he said it was a private matter.

Jack’s grandson suspended for ‘obscene gesture’ at high school football game

Nick O’Leary, grandson of Jack Nicklaus and a top college recruit, was suspended for two games for making an “obscene gesture” following a game in Ohio, according to The Palm Beach Post. (Based on the video, you can read "obscene gesture" as "flipping the bird.")

Dwyer High's loss to Cleveland-Glenville on Labor Day in a season-opening game televised by ESPN received national attention because of two disputed calls in the final moments that apparently cost the Panthers a winning touchdown.

Dwyer star Nick O'Leary, frustrated by the calls and taunting by Glenville players, responded with an obscene gesture that was caught on camera and replayed continually on TV and the Internet. The Florida High School Athletic Association took action against O'Leary on Wednesday, suspending him for two games, Dwyer coach Jack Daniels said.

O’Leary apologized for his actions in a written statement issued by the Dwyer High School athletic department.

Stray Shots

Things we saw while hoping that Rickie Fowler isn’t designing the American Ryder Cup uniforms...

Padraig Harrington says, “There's no doubt that having received a [Ryder Cup captain’s] pick I will be under additional pressure to justify it.” (Via The Irish Independent)

The next great golf expansion could happen in India. (Via The New York Times)

UK tax authorities are looking to shake down Ryder Cup players for a piece of their shoe contracts. Ah, the spirit of international sportsmanship. (Via The Daily Mail UK)

The Bleacher Report picks the 10 most fan-friendly Tour players. Nope, Tiger didn’t make the cut here either.

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