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December 06, 2001

Anybody see Phil or David?
By Dan Patrick

I watched the U.S. Open on Sunday in Bristol with some of my SportsCenter colleagues. At the 18th green, it appeared Retief Goosen was your winner. When Stewart Cink missed his bogey putt, we all went, "Whooaaa!"

But when Goosen missed his par putt, we all went, "Arrrgghhh! Arrrrrrrrgghhh!" How could he have three-putted from 12 feet with the U.S. Open at stake?

Phil Mickelson
Phil Mickelson can't believe he missed a putt at the 14th hole on Sunday.

But let's face it. With Tiger Woods out of contention, it shouldn't have been Goosen, Cink and Mark Brooks duking it out. Where were Phil Mickelson and David Duval? You can give Sergio Garcia some slack. He's just 21 years old. But Duval and Mickelson had a chance to make a statement, to seriously upgrade their reputations as competitors. But Duval turned in a lackluster 74 and Mickelson a disinterested 75.

We call those guys great golfers all the time. And compared to you and me, they are. But with Tiger's off weekend, they had a big opportunity and they blew it. Is that what great golfers do? No. I don't think it is.

Pick your cliché for what they should have done. Step up. Close it out. Rise to the occasion. Take the bull by the horns. Well, they did none of those things.

You want to know who did step up? 51-year-old Tom Kite. He cranked out a 64. Forget about all the other details. A 64 on Sunday at a major is great golf. Duval and Mickelson were 10 and 11 shots off that pace. Look no further. There is the story.

And how does this affect Tiger Woods? More than you probably think. Fairly soon, we may be wondering if Tiger is simply dominating in an era of weak players. Jack Nicklaus finished second in 19 majors because of the great golfers he played against -- guys who knew how to win, like Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Lee Trevino and Tom Watson. As great as that is on its own, it says that during his prime there were guys who could handle Nicklaus on big days at big events. That also made his wins all the more impressive because he beat Palmer, Player, Trevino and Watson to do it.

So another major has passed and Duval and Mickelson have gained no ground on Tiger. They blew a chance to close that perceived gap between them and Woods. In my opinion, the gap got wider this weekend.

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