Chris Baldwin This Week at March 8, 2005

If suddenly grumpy Phil didn't choke, you could at least hear the cough

Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson's head-to-head showdown on the final Sunday at Doral stands as one of those rare moments in sports when everything comes together and the drama overshoots even the hype. It is the kind of the thing that pushes golf into the forefront, makes SportsCenter producers and newspaper sports editors revamp their story order, suddenly transforms casual fans into edge-of-the-seat fanatics.

Heck, even baseball legend Pete Rose took time out from his third straight day signing $50 autographs in a boxy booth on The Las Vegas Strip to ask for Tiger-Phil updates.

Yet with all that said, and largely because of it, few people want to tell the truth about what really went down at Doral. Tiger-Phil is so good for golf, such a scintillating shot in the arm, that it's important for many to maintain the mystique and aura. Only thing is, it wasn't the best of both of them as widely told. It was the only the best of one: Tiger, the forever dominant one in this relationship.

For if Phil didn't choke (again), he surely let out a few sizable coughs. Mickelson missed four putts within 10 feet in his most important tournament of the season so far, with Woods in his Sunday red, glaring him down again. Mickelson looked like he was about to hyperventilate on that five-foot miss on 16 that would have given him the lead back. The guy's entertaining no doubt, but would anyone want Phil Mickelson as their guide through choppy waters? If you weren't drowning already, the overexcited Mickelson would surely bring you under.

At least, Mickelson seemed to recognize what really happened at Doral. He waved off a walking-off-the-course TV interview and unleashed a Chris Rock-worthy bomb in his press conference later. Mr. Friendly Everyman is getting awfully grumpy. Phil even blew off our own Lefty-Loving staff blogger Matt Paulson a few weeks ago. Guess the adorable daughters don't come running out on choke either.

Meanwhile, Tiger Woods actually appeared almost...(gasp!) human this weekend. There was Mr. Serious throwing a "Happy Birthday, Dad" into a TV interview. What's next? Vijay Singh says something nice about a caddy?

As always your comments are welcome on any topic, including the showdowns, staredowns and bizarre personality turns of the PGA Tour.

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