How One Word Branded Tiger Woods the Villain and Phil Mickelson the Hero

Will Leivenberg@@will_leivenbergFeatured ColumnistJune 22, 2010

PEBBLE BEACH, CA - JUNE 20:  Phil Mickelson celebrates salvaging a bogey on the 12th green during the final round of the 110th U.S. Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links on June 20, 2010 in Pebble Beach, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

Golf is the ultimate judge of one's character.

The US Open, held this past weekend at the sublime Pebble Beach golf course, revealed an indelible difference between professional golf's two most talented competitors.

And all it took was one word.


When Tiger Woods used the word 'awful' to describe the quality of Pebble Beach's putting greens after his first round and Phil Mickelson used the same term to describe his own putting, we learned about each player's temperament and backbone.

Phil didn't commit some sacred deed or do anything worthy of being canonized. 

He just took responsibility.

Tiger expressed his opinion, which he is absolutely entitled to.

But, my opinion on his opinion, is that he sounded like a big-baby whining about the greens.

Is it possible that Tiger Woods, one of golf's most accomplished golfer's of all-time, has forgotten the fundamental rule of a golf tournament?

Everyone plays the same course.

A real champion makes the adjustment in the face of adversity.

Overcoming the obstacles of the golf course doesn't just require sound mechanics, it requires the power of mind and body.

It seems like Tiger doesn't quite realize just how childish and immature he can appear.

Similarly, for the young, aspiring golfers all over the world who still blindly idolize Woods, what kind of example is Tiger setting?

Blaming the conditions of the golf course is almost like blaming the referee's in basketball or the umpires in baseball.

They are factors you have no control over, but have to manage as best you can.

"Roll with the punches, tomorrow's another day," says the late, great Dickie Fox—the original sports agent and mentor of Jerry Maguire.

For golfers, there's always the next hole, next shot, or next round to adapt, overcome, and conquer.

But two syllables and five letters branded Tiger the villain and Phil the hero.

I'm not the only one borderline shocked at Woods' comment.

After learning of Tiger's abrasive remark, the Executive Director of the USGA, David Fay, couldn't help but send his own biting statement back at Tiger.

First, Fay explained that an "A-team" of superintendents from around the country made the green surfaces at Pebble better than ever. In addition, Fay believed the greens were even better than they were in 2000, when Tiger had his record-breaking major championship win.

Secondly, the executive director insisted that if players had any issues with the greens, that they were more cosmetic—based on physical appearance (poa annua greens naturally feature brown splotches)—then agronomic—based on the green quality and management.

Finally, without directly criticizing the three-time Open champion, Fay gave Woods the dagger.

He subtly mentioned how Mickelson was the only player, other than Tiger, to use the word 'awful,' but in a radically different and telling context.