Tiger gets his Phil
By Brian Murphy
Special to Page 2

The Cooler is set up squarely inside the ropes today, dwellers.

Tiger-Phil. Torrey Pines. The story of the weekend.

Tiger Woods
Let's just say it now for future reference: Never, ever bet against Tiger Woods.
And you've got unlimited access to the Sparkletts.

That's right. We lugged The Cooler around the bluffs above the Pacific on Sunday, and two things came to pass:

One, we got a freaking hernia. Ever tote a Cooler around a golf course?

Two, if you're going to partake, and you've got to duck into the Port-A-Potti, by all means: Don't let the door slam during a player's backswing. This weekend at Torrey, I saw players with psyches as fragile as Zelda Fitzgerald, and with tempers as hair-trigger as Billy Martin. Woe is he who let the Port-A-Potti door slam at the wrong time: You might have gotten verbally undressed by a guy in an ironed Antigua golf shirt and tailored pants.

Dwellers -- you all should look so put together as the average PGA Tour pro. Really. I know, because as a member of the Dreaded Media, as an Ink-Stained Wretch myself, I tromp around inside the ropes looking like I slept in a golf shirt and shorts before ducking under said ropes, thus infuriating some paying member of the golf public. Not only is my shirt not ironed, but my dome is squarely in that paying fan's way when Brad Faxon is plumb-bobbing a 14-footer.

(This all goes back to the famous line from the '98 U.S. Open at Olympic, when a fellow scribe, inside the ropes, was being berated by a fan for blocking her view. Said my fellow scribe, in all earnestness: "Excuse me, ma'am. A little respect, please? After all, I'm being paid to be here.")

Anyhoo ... about that Tiger character:

You go to Vegas before the Buick Invitational, and some guy in a green visor behind a counter offers you Phil Mickelson, plus five strokes, vs. Tiger, do you take it? Do you sign on for Lefty? What if that same Green Visor offers you Tiger to win, at 2 to 1 odds? Do you take him? Against a 156-man field? Coming off knee surgery?

What if Green Visor Man offers you The Field against Tiger, even money?

I'll tell you what ...

You take Phil, plus five. You take The Field.

And you lose.

You're wearing a barrel.

But it's OK -- because we've got unlimited Sparkletts, and views of parasailors off the cliffs of Torrey Pines. You're just not going to be able to make the smooth moves on the birds down at Jimmy O's in Del Mar when you're wearing a barrel.

(Side note: Torrey Pines. Say it once, and you think -- is that what Yankees manager Joe does when he thinks of old girlfriends?)

On the same three-day weekend when Michael Jordan turns 40, and a week after his All-Star extravanganza (which still might be going on, last I checked), we see the new Jordan, back in business.

He's not as fly as Michael, but he's a better golfer.

So his big-time win at Torrey was, what? One of his most impressive wins, given the circumstances? A message to Ernie Els? Or just an excuse to hang out in 'Diego, eating sushi in Pacific Beach and playing the popular bar game: Barret Robbins or Oliver Reed -- Whose Bender Was Bigger?

Somebody said, as Tiger and Phil (and Brad Faxon!) came up 18: "You know what? This was a T.F.W. Sunday." The "T" and the "W," we know as his initials. You can figure out the rest.

On that rated "R" note, we move on to the Weekend List of Five, heavy on The Striped One:

1. Tiger, Brad and Phil -- playing "Elimidate"
Brad Faxon, Tiger Woods
Brad Faxon buddied up to Tiger so much that he probably didn't even notice the parasailers over the Pacific.
Hilarious stuff out there. It was so clear that Tiger was the center of the universe, and that Mickelson and Faxon were merely satellite moons. Each took his own tack. Lefty never looked at Tiger, never talked to Tiger. Faxon, a genial man, chatted with Tiger like they were on a long bus ride, with nothing but views of Middle America out the window.

But as both Phil and Faxon weren't able to keep up with Tiger's birdies on 2 and 5, the round took on the look of a Tour version of "Elimidate," where Tiger, at the turn, makes the choice of who gets to play the back nine with him.

Tiger (to camera): I'm leaning toward keeping Brad, because Phil just hasn't shown me that he wants to be out here. The fact that he never looks at me creeps me out, in a way. Plus, Brad is a friendly guy.

Phil (to camera): I hope he chooses me for the back nine, and respects the fact that I'm tanking so intensely that his win is virtually assured.

Brad (to camera): Either way, I've had a great time. But I'd love to play the back nine. Plus, I think Phil has been creepy, the way he never looks at Tiger. I mean, that is SO, like, psych-o!

You'd have to believe Tiger would "Elimidate" Phil. Then we'd get Phil, on a cart path near No. 10 tee, while Faxon and Tiger tee off in the background, telling the camera:

I just never got the feeling that he gave me a chance. Hey, he doesn't know what he's missing. Anyway, I'm better off without him."

2. Lefty's strategy
Mickelson told us Saturday that he doesn't like to look at Tiger when he plays, because to watch his swing "throws off my rhythm." What-ever.

Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods
"I sense that Tiger is standing to my left ... but there's no way I'm looking in that direction."
I studied Phil during Tiger's turns hitting. Wild, wild stuff. On No. 2 tee, he stared a hole through his caddie, Jim (Bones) MacKay, while Tiger teed off. Tiger, it turns out, halted his swing because of some movement, and went through his whole pre-shot routine again. This meant that Phil's staredown of his caddie took on awkwardly long dimensions, and Bones must have wondered if he had some spinach stuck in his teeth.

On the third green, while Tiger putted, Mickelson stood off, staring into a canyon. God bless him. He's a bright guy, and you get the feeling that if he came to the press tent after his round, he'd go through his birdies and bogeys, and then add: "And on 3, I saw some Shrubus Mediterraneus, which I find fascinating because that shrub does not need an inordinate amount of water to survive, causing a dry, brushy feel to its branches ..."

3. Faxon: The Switzerland of the Tour
Brad Faxon is a nice guy. He gets along with Phil. He gets along with Tiger. So while Phil and Tiger did not speak to each other socially for most of the round, Faxon bounced between both guys, chatting them up. We can only imagine what he was doing. Was he stirring it up? Was he chatting with Phil, and when Phil said: "Boy, I really got through that 9-iron," did Faxon snort and say: "Hunh. That's not what Tiger was saying back on the 3rd tee"?

Did he work an elaborate plan to bring them together, at various times inviting each to a sandwich at the turn, only to arrange it so that he skipped out and Tiger and Phil were left alone at the sandwich stand?

We marveled at Faxon's ability to work both parties.

I wondered if his caddie's nametag on the back of his vest should change from "FAXON" to "BLIX," as Faxon played U.N. inspector on each player's bag.

Tiger Woods
In a splendid red mock-turtleneck, Tiger had the look of a winner.
4. Tiger's look
So the big man broke out the mock turtleneck/high-neck crew T-shirt/show-off-my-seriously-cut-V-shape look. As one wag noted: "He didn't change his look. He just went from a large to a medium."

What say ye? Thumbs up, or down on the look?

Undoubtedly, it is a break from tradition. Walter Hagen, had he played the Buick, would have done so in a tuxedo, with a 5-iron in one hand and a martini in the other. Ben Hogan, in a white cap, accessorized with a pack of Marlboros. Jack Nicklaus, in ill-fitting pants and shirt, showing off a Mickelsonian torso.

I give Tiger a pass on the new shirt. He went 68-68 on the beastly South Course wearing the Mock Tee-Neck, so who am I to argue?

I'd have shot 110, wearing a freebie shirt with a logo over the left breast as big as the Hindenburg.

5. Mike Tyson: RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!
Mike Tyson
America is filled with some mighty strange people.
Pardon me while I quiver under the covers this morning, refusing to get out of bed. After all, you never know where Mike Tyson might turn up!

The mothership's SportsCenter produced another Tyson one-on-one, and as the deranged man spewed his words of violence and rage, couched in a lisp, I had to wonder:

Where does that man get his gold-plated dentistry done? I could use a little work on a bicuspid.

I also had to wonder: What is up with our country? We produce cats like Mike Tyson, and Freako Central Wack Jobs like Michael Jackson, and each gets his own TV time. Andy Warhol, six feet under, must be regretting his 15 minutes of fame call, and frankly, we'd all wish that he would send a memo from the Great Hereafter claifyng: I meant 15 seconds of fame!

Meanwhile, somewhere in the distance, Phil Mickelson stares at a parasailor while Tiger tees off.

I love this country.

Brian Murphy of the San Francisco Chronicle writes the "Weekend Water Cooler" every Monday for Page 2.



Brian Murphy Archive

Murphy: All-Star ogling

Murphy: Much ado about nothing

Murphy: Getting faced

Murphy: Fond farewell to an historic hellhole

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