Notebook > Sports

Getting Tiger by the tail

Sports | Phil Mickelson masters the art of winning majors

Issue: "Meltdown," April 22, 2006

The scenario was perfect for Tiger Woods. Heading into Sunday at Augusta, the field allowed the four-time Masters champion to hang close to the top. He trailed by just one stroke to a trio of leaders during the front nine. It seemed like the perfect time for Tiger to do in a major what he has so often done in other PGA tour events: stalk from behind and snatch away the victory.

But Phil Mickelson wasn't having any of it. Yes, that Phil Mickelson-the one critics once said couldn't win the big one. This time, it was Mr. Mickelson who ran away without worrying about those behind him. He nailed a pair of birdies on both the front and back nine. Meanwhile Mr. Woods, the golfer who has most haunted Mr. Mickelson, lost his touch on the greens. "I absolutely lost it out there on the greens," Mr. Woods said shortly after the final round. "I'll probably go snap this putter in about eight pieces."

That Mr. Woods lost his cool was very un-Tiger-like, but perhaps understandable. The 30-year-old golfer played Augusta while his father lay dying of cancer in California.

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Even so, Mr. Mickelson's victory has given pundits something to talk about. Could Mr. Mickelson have surpassed Mr. Woods? Golf fans don't think so, apparently. According to a Yahoo! online poll, 68 percent of the more than 150,000 voters thought Tiger was still the top player in the world. But Tiger has won two of the previous nine major championships. Mr. Mickelson has won three. Could Mr. Mickelson finally have Tiger by the tail?

Around the Horn

April 9 wasn't a good day for Cy Young award winners. Amazingly, the three previous winners of the American League Cy Young award lost on the same day when Bartolo Colon, Johan Santana, and Roy Halladay each got rocked in their outings. Their combined line on the day? The trio pitched 14 2/3 innings and allowed 15 runs.

Reporters who flew to Mississippi to see Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre at the press conference for his annual charity golf tournament were less than thrilled when they learned the iconic quarterback wouldn't be announcing his decision on whether to retire. A source close to Mr. Favre's family leaked that the Packers star would announce his decision at the Tunica, Miss., tournament. "The fact that we're sitting here today at this press conference, to me, is a joke because I don't have anything to tell you," Mr. Favre said. "Somebody assumed that I would."

USC star Matt Leinart may be the prototypical quarterback, but apparently he doesn't want the prototypical quarterback's agent. The potential top-five draft pick fired super-agent Leigh Steinberg just a few weeks before the April 29 NFL draft. Perhaps word spread amongst friends regarding Mr. Steinberg, who has represented Steve Young, Warren Moon, Troy Aikman, and Ben Roethlisberger. Mr. Leinart's former USC teammate tackle Winston Justice also fired Mr. Steinberg earlier in April.

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