Tiger who? Don’t for­get Mick­el­son at Masters

The Covington News - - Sports - By Paul New­berry

AU­GUSTA — It’s easy to get car­ried away with Tiger Woods at Au­gusta Na­tional, or any other place, for that mat­ter. Will he win a fifth green jacket? Will he get started on a Grand Slam?

But let’s not for­get an­other guy who knows his way around Bobby Jones’ lay­out.

Over the last four years, Phil Mick­el­son has more Masters wins (two) than Woods (one). Now that Arnold Palmer has struck the cer­e­mo­nial tee shot to get things started, Lefty prob­a­bly has the best chance of any­one to stop Woods’ seem­ingly in­evitable march to a fifth ti­tle here.

Woods teed off un­der sunny skies Thurs­day, about an hour be­hind sched­ule af­ter soupy fog blan­keted the course just past sun­rise. The world’s No. 1 player got off to a shaky start, pulling his drive up against the sec­ond cut to the left, then miss­ing the green to the right with a tow­er­ing sec­ond shot.

He chipped six feet past the

cup, but man­aged to sink the putt to save par, the ball rolling around the edge be­fore drop­ping in.

Luke Don­ald was the early leader, with birdies on two of the first three holes. Heath Slocum got to 3 un­der be­fore drop­ping back with two straight bo­geys around the turn.

Mick­el­son had an af­ter­noon tee time.

Palmer was able to say his tee shot trav­eled so far he never saw it land. The thick fog lim­ited vis­i­bil­ity to about 200 yards, lead­ing to a de­lay af­ter the King’s cer­e­mo­nial strike.

Mick­el­son cer­tainly feels at home at a course where he sank an 18-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole to claim his first ma­jor cham­pi­onship in 2004, and fol­lowed it up with an­other green jacket two years ago.

“I love this tour­na­ment,” he said, “and I love when I get here, how you don’t have to be per­fect. You don’t have to hit ev­ery­thing well to be able to score well.”

He’s de­scrib­ing his own game, of course, a per­plex­ing mix of bril­liant shots and in­de­fen­si­ble gaffes. This is the guy who’ll at­tempt swings in the heat of a tour­na­ment that no one else will even try on the prac­tice range. This is also the guy who said this about him­self, “I’m such an id­iot,” af­ter throw­ing away the 2006 U.S. Open and los­ing a chance to go for a Grand Slam of his own.

Which brings us to Au­gusta, as pris­tine a spot as you’ll find on the planet. And back when he was still the best player never to win a ma­jor, Mick­el­son al­ways felt this would be the tour­na­ment where he broke through.

MICK­EL­SON

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