The Big Mac Blog

Tiger is done and now Phil is, too

Phil Mickelson finished tied for 29th in his return to Fort Worth and the Dean and DeLuca Invitational Friday, May 26, 2017.
Phil Mickelson finished tied for 29th in his return to Fort Worth and the Dean and DeLuca Invitational Friday, May 26, 2017.

Perhaps it was watching his former “rival” finish tie for 29th at the Dean and DeLuca Invitational at Colonial that drove Tiger Woods to order another. Maybe it was the sight of knowing Phil Mickelson can play four rounds of pain-free golf that inspired Tiger to order his Arnold Palmer with a twist (of Grey Goose).

Phil never have equaled Tiger on the course, but he at least has one fewer mugshot that will float on the internet forever.

Just this morning Tiger Woods was arrested near his home near Jupiter, Fla. for driving under the influence. The man who could afford to buy his own Tauntaun to give him a ride did have enough for a lyft.

Tiger was never perfect, we just were dumb enough to believe he might be because he was nearly flawless on a golf course. Mickelson, of course, was never close to perfect on golf course, which made him to perfect to so many.

It was comforting to watch Phil return to the tournament where his name is on the Wall of Champions twice, but the Phil who came back to Fort Worth for the first time since 2010 is officially no more.

The Lefty who played the Dean and DeLuca Invitational at Colonial is not the Lefty who won here and created a fiercely loyal fan base in this city. Personally, I wanted Phil to win because it would have generated the most headlines for the tournament, the club and the city.

Just like we want Tiger to be Tiger, we desperately want Phil to be Lefty again; that Phil showed up only sporadically in his four days here in Fort Worth, which at 46 is all can be expected.

Welcome to 40. Hair loss. DUIs. Shorter tee shots. Sucks.

One of golf’s greatest eras is over. Tiger Woods can’t stay healthy, and he will never be the player he was when he was the most popular and dominant athlete in the world.

Watching Phil fight a course he previously dominated was a wee bit sad, and will be misconstrued as karmic. Phil abandoned Colonial after missing the cut in 2010 when the club went out of its way to throw a Pink Out in honor of his wife, Amy, a breast cancer survivor.

Phil finishing tied for 29th on Sunday in his first appearance at Colonial since ‘10 is not the result of a mystical force enjoying a good laugh at his expense. It’s the result of a good golfer who is fighting consistency in his advancing years.

His main rival, who was a rival in name only, now has bragging rights on Tiger. Phil is finally greater than Tiger because he’s upright and can hit a ball without pain for four straight days. And now there is the no mugshot thing, too.

Other than that, Phil’s time as a contender to win majors and a handful of other tournaments on the tour are over as well. Just like Tiger.

Phil has not won a tournament since 2013, and while all of the game’s improved equipment will allow him to remain competitive it just looks like it’s no longer there. He returned to Colonial not for any other reason than he wanted to play a course where he knew he could have success.

He made the cut, and some cash. He finished with a respectable 280; he was one-under par on both Saturday and Sunday after he shot a 75 on Friday. This was not the plan.

Phil played like a man who is closer to being eligible to play on the Senior’s Tour than his prime, when golf fans fell for the lovable loser tag. By Sunday his gallery had dwindled as the masses moved on to watch Jordan Spieth and the leaders.

The U.S. Open begins in a few weeks in Erin Hills, Wisc. and Phil will command the camera’s eye because he’s Phil. It would be fun to see if he could match Jack Nicklaus’ record as the oldest player to win a Major title; Jack was the 1986 Master’s when he was 46. But no one is betting on this, or one of those famous Phil finishes, aka second place.

Phil’s PGA career will last as long as he wants, but his window as one of its most marketable stars and names is all but shut. He has had a wonderful career complete with major wins, green jackets, plaid jackets, Ryder Cup wins and more money than he could ever possibly lose at a casino table.

Both he and Tiger provided countless enduring moments, and like any good movie or TV show they left us wanting a little bit more.

Mac Engel: @macengelprof