British Open 2011: Why Tiger Woods' Absence Is Hurting Phil Mickelson's Game

Thomas ConroyCorrespondent IJuly 14, 2011

DORAL, FL - MARCH 10:  Tiger Woods (L) and Phil Mickelson walk off the tenth tee during the first round of the 2011 WGC- Cadillac Championship at the TPC Blue Monster at the Doral Golf Resort and Spa on March 10, 2011 in Doral, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson have been playing against one another professionally since 1996, as their competitive rivalry took golf by storm and help modernized the sport for the masses to enjoy.

This year, both have shown vulnerability on the course due to injuries and poor play. Clearly, the absence of Tiger competing for golf’s luxury top position had a negative effect on Mickelson’s game. Yes, he is still excited to play golf, but his overall play has been very disappointing at times.

Lefty has always felt that golf needs a successful comeback from Woods, but added that he never felt the responsibility to fill the void during his absence. Mickelson misses the healthy competition between them and the possible last day pairing at a major. Winning a major championship is a completely different challenge than other tournament on the tour.

Let’s not forget that Mickelson’s personal life received two major jolts of reality, as in 2009, his wife, Amy, and mother, Mary, both were diagnosed with breast cancer. He has departed from his usual pre-major routine to spend more time with his family. His performance hasn’t been impressive whether Tiger was or wasn’t in the field.

In 2010, Lefty revealed that he was diagnosed with psoriathic arthritis at the PGA Championship. Immediately, Mickelson began treatment and had a positive outlook about the prognosis. To his credit, Phil has never used the illness as an excuse for poor play, and feels his condition will have no long-term effect on his overall game.

Now, we’re receiving an influx of European talent that has generated a newfound interest in golf. The bigger question is if Rory McIlroy can maintain the buzz much like Tiger and Lefty did in their heyday.

From a fan’s perspective, you expect to see Mickelson and Woods compete at major championships on a yearly basis. No one should question their ability to perform at the highest level in golf. Their struggles might have changed the rooting interest of the fans, but are they ready to cheer the young studs to multiple major championship wins. That question hasn’t been answered.

The Tiger Effect is in full swing whether he’s playing or not, and this should have been the perfect opportunity for Lefty to take full control of professional golf. He did not, but they’re several more major championship wins left in him, Mickelson isn’t finished just yet.

We as golf fans need both to return to prominence in the sport. The advancements in the equipment will allow them to compete with the young guns on several more occasions in the near future. Woods and Mickelson’s intense workout regiments will help both stay in great shape well into their 50's.

And for Tiger and Lefty’s benefit, experience will always defeat skill on the on the golf course.