Tiger's Rule, Rory's Clubs, Phil's Taxes: What a Way to Start 2013

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Tiger's Rule, Rory's Clubs, Phil's Taxes: What a Way to Start 2013
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Phil Mickelson at the Humana Classic.

It’s a soap opera. And yet people say golf is boring. Honestly, we can't get enough of this stuff.

The No. 1 and No. 2 golfers in the world missed the cut in Abu Dhabi, and Phil Mickelson doesn't like taxes (per Mike Walker of Golf.com). Of the three, at least Phil Mickelson shot respectable scores at the Humana Classic, and we agree with him. Nobody likes taxes. 

Should we be at all concerned about Tiger and Rory's respective games? According to Sports Illustrated contributing writer John Garrity, Tiger's a bit of a concern: "I'd be more concerned about Tiger. He used to be able to win with his B game and contend with his C game. Now he needs his A game to even be part of the conversation."

That may be a little harsh. Woods won the Bay Hill tournament last year after hitting into a swimming pool in one of the rounds. The bad shot was blamed on cell phones. Really, you couldn’t hear a cell phone go off. But you could see an awful pull come off the tee shot. The nerve of homeowners. Putting a swimming pool where you know a golf ball is going to land.

Woods did not play flawless golf that week, but he won. So, he still doesn’t need his A-game to win.  For all his starts and stops and breaks, Woods has found a pattern that allows him to peak most of the time when he needs to, for a tournament that he deems important on the golf calendar.  

However, getting a penalty for a drop is not like Tiger Woods, particularly when he missed the cut by one shot and the penalty for the wrong drop was two strokes. The golf gods will not like this. You can almost hear the thunderbolts rattling.

Andrew Redington/Getty Images
Tiger's drop.

Granted, both Woods and McIlroy were in Abu Dhabi for appearance fees, but we just expect a little more out of them. We are spoiled. And perhaps their goals with the event are different than our expectations. 

These days Woods uses different tournaments and courses the same way that Jack Nicklaus did later in his career. For instance, Nicklaus would enter the tournament at Doral because he knew the course and knew he could measure the state of his game by how he played the Blue Monster. If his drives were off or his irons weren’t sharp or his putting wasn’t what he wanted, he would know that first week in March. The course would tell him what he needed to do between then and April to prepare for the Masters.

Woods may use Farmers Insurance Open and Bay Hill Invitational and, perhaps now, the Honda Classic to tell him the same things that Doral told Nicklaus. That may be one reason Woods has won Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill tournament so many times. He’s getting ready for Augusta National, and he wins it by accident because he has been preparing hard. 

Who knows what Abu Dhabi was about? We believe he doesn’t really need the cash, but the amazing thing about people who have money is they want more.   

What is really going to be interesting is to see how McIlroy does with the short schedule and new clubs headed into the Masters. He’s only playing five events ahead of the season’s first major. He’s going to be ready for Augusta National with five weeks of tournament play spread out over 10 weeks? The Nike putter has already left the bag. Will other clubs follow?

Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images
Rory changed out the Nike putter for a Scotty Cameron. Will other clubs follow?

Because we have only seen McIlroy play one full season in the U.S., it is hard to judge his playing preparation. It may be hard for him to know where he is too. We can guess he will play Doral's WGC-Cadillac Championship (a no-cut event), Accenture Match Play, Honda Classic (where he’s defending champ) and if he plays Bay Hill, that’s five. You can guess that Tiger Woods will play those same events and that the Honda Classic is added only because it is in his backyard.

For sure, the Abu Dhabi HSBC showed us where Woods and McIlroy aren‘t. They aren’t ready to play a major. But there isn’t one until April.

It also showed something that most golf telecasts don’t show: Golfers who aren’t playing their best.  Usually, to be televised, you have to do well. In the case of the Abu Dhabi tournament, all they had to do was show up. It was wall-to-wall Tiger and Rory for as long as they lasted. 

On any ordinary week on the PGA Tour, lots of professional golfers miss shots. They are in lakes and trees and hazards, and hit all kinds of inanimate objects and sometimes moving ones. They hit through tree trunks with amazing precision, but somehow can’t find a green or the hole. They make triples and quads, and not the kinds you want in figure skating.

But we seldom see bad play because golfers who play poorly are not in contention and not televised. They are home on the weekend. Guys who blow up during a final round are shown mercy by the networks. You seldom see their horrible shots after they fall out of the hunt. Even the TV producers have mercy, and they would rather focus on the good stuff. In short, last week, for two days or nights, depending on where you were, we were treated to something we don’t always see: average and below average golf. No more, no less. It was just produced by people who don’t usually play that way.

And now, what will Phil do next? Tax reform? No matter what you might have expected from Phil Mickelson, commenting on the bite California taxes take out of his income was not anticipated. Even after taxes, he probably makes more than the GDP of some small countries. Is he running for governor? Mayor of La Jolla? Is he moving to Florida? Texas? Nevada, to be closer to Butch Harmon? 

Phil, here’s a hint: Your California dollars buy at least twice as much house in Florida. And you can bend the commissioner’s ear a little harder when you are nearby. You can always keep a house in the Golden State. You just don’t want to spend more than half the year there so that you are not a resident. Talk to your accountant. Become bi-coastal. Get some advice from John Cook about that. And Phil, we agree with you on the taxes. Nobody likes those, except apparently, Warren Buffett.

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