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Tiger or Phil? We Got Our Answer on the Back Nine at Augusta

Husker FanCorrespondent IApril 14, 2009

AUGUSTA, GA - APRIL 12:  Tiger Woods reacts to a missed putt on the seventh green during the final round of the 2009 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 12, 2009 in Augusta, Georgia.  (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

Sunday at the Masters is as special of an event as there is on the planet. 

The course is in immaculate condition and we all get to witness the best players in the world work their craft on one of the most deadly risk and reward courses that we will ever see in Major Championship play. 

Especially one that measures out at over 7,400 yards.

We all know the ending of the Perry collapse and the Cabrera victory.  But the story that most will remember is the battle between Phil and Tiger.

From the word go Tiger, and more importantly, Phil were in full on charge mode.  7 back with 18 to play, we all wanted to see some fireworks from these two.  Especially since they were playing together.

We got what we wanted.  But what we also received was an insight into the minds of what really makes these guy's tick. 

Neither of them ended up winning, but they gave us a show for a very very long time. 

However, I also found that the back nine at Augusta is what truly separates these guys as to why they are what they are....

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On Sunday we saw one of the greatest front nine charges that we have ever seen in Major Championship golf.  Phil Mickelson, starting the day seven strokes behind the leaders, had found himself only 1 behind after a 'Master'ful 30 on the front side. 

He was in full charge mode and hit one of the more memorable shots in his entire career in a duck hook half-7 iron approach to the seventh green.

 A shot that was played from the thick pines and pinestraw, and was still spinning around itself as it settled a mere two feet or so from the cup. 

After a solid save at No. 9 to complete his miraculous front nine, Phil was truly in contention to don his third Masters Green Jacket.  All the while exorcising some demons of the Tiger greatness that he was directly paired with yesterday. 

Then...No. 12.

You could feel it, you could sense it.  I made a comment to my family that it was only a matter of time that Phil would get out of his comfort zone charge, and realize that he actually had a chance at winning the tournament in grand fashion. 

I assured my compatriots that a double bogey was imminent.  A double bogey that we would all look back upon as another 'Phil'. 

After Tiger had properly judged the wind, the circumstances, and quietly planted a knockdown 8-iron firmly on the green at No. 12, Phil and Bones went through their calculations. 

They settled on a dreadful full-on 9 iron with intentions of going directly at a flag that one that is within one shot of the lead had no business going after.

Sure, he pulled it slightly, but he also half-chunked and folded it over at at the same time.  As his ball slunk back into the watery grave of Rae's Creek, we were all but assured that it would not be Phil's day. 

After Phil and Tiger traded expected birdies and pars at No. 13 and No. 14 respectively, the stage was set for No. 15.  Historically, 15 has been a hole that has made huge differences in Masters' tournaments of past. 

The traditional Sunday pin position, and it was a 'go' Eagle hole for both of these great players.  They both desperately needed it if they were to don the green jacket this time.

As it happened all day, Phil had crafted a drive well past Tiger.  After Tiger had put his 2nd shot in position to make a game-changing Eagle that we are so accustomed to, Phil countered with a crisp iron that flag-hunted to within 5 feet of the hole. 

After Tiger narrowly missed his 20-footer, the stage was set for Phil to merely tap in his 5-footer and take some command in this golf tournament. 

Yet again, the over-calculation, and over-reading of the task at hand fell upon Mr. Mickelson. In pure self-doubt he hit a putt that was never on line and meager in its strike. 

I have no doubt in my mind that if Tiger were presented the same circumstances he would have buried that one.  He always does.  Phil?  Left, off-line, never struck with any confidence.

On 16 Tiger was making his final charge for the green jacket.  He somehow manipulated an iron shot that I have never seen him play before.  A half-iron semi-rake hook that found itself all of five or six feet behind the pin.

Phil followed in suit with an iron that no doubt painted the flag the entire time, but was woefully 18-20 feet long.  After a measly effort from Phil, Tiger pured his short putt directly into the center of the cup.

Something Phil would have liked to have had on the previous hole when given a much easier opportunity.

Now with them both standing at 10 under and still with hopes of garnering a green jacket; they both knew that if they could post 11 under they had a serious shot at wearing yet another elusive green jacket.

Self-assured, Tiger made his most aggressive swing with the driver that we had seen all day.  As it turned out he had pulled it off-line a good 20 or so yards leaving him with nothing more than a pitch-out and an attempt to chip in or merely save par and try to attack the last. 

Phil sent forth a mighty stroke that left him the most opportune angle into the traditional pin at 17. 

He came through with yet another solid iron shot in a series of solid iron shots that we had seen throughout the day.  Yet another 5 to 6 footer to keep in contention of the tournament he so dearly loves.

Tiger punched out, made a rather mediocre chip and badly missed a curling side hill putt that ended his championship dreams rather humbly. 

As he holed his bogey and walked away from the hole, you could see the disappointment on his face.  He was furious, disgraced, and completely embarrassed about his play. 

Then there was Phil.  A 6-footer with the tournament still in the balance.  A make here and he is at 11 under.  A simple par on 18 and he could post a score.  A birdie on 18 and he might even be in the driver's seat.

But yet, he put another sorry stroke on a putt that his playing partner would almost assuredly have made if given the similar circumstances. 

Off to 18. 

Dejected and knowing his fate unless he holed out his second shot on 18, Tiger flailed his tee shot off into the woods.  His second shot, a last second attempt at greatness, wasn't to be.  Phil on the other hand could still birdie 18 and at the very least, put an 11 on the board for all the others to see.  Bogey.

As Tiger walked off of the back of the green on 18 he was dejected, hurt, and thoroughly incensed at himself.  He could barely take enough time to even talk to the reporters who were staged behind the green to talk with these two men.

Phil was cordial, honest, and 'dog-gone-it' it was 'fun'. 

Fun? 

You enjoyed your day and are reveling in the fact that you made a comeback to make it interesting for yourself?  You gave yourself a shot, yet failed again? 

While Tiger couldn't talk to anybody other than himself, Phil was more than willing to tell everyone just how happy he was to make a glorious comeback, but yet fall short...again. 

The back 9 at Augusta on Sunday told us all we need to know about these two guys.  One absolutely thrives upon the competition and will accept nothing more than a victory, even if his game is nowhere close to the  high end of what he expects.

The other appreciates the opportunity and revels in the fact that he was competitive and had a chance. 

Phil was all smiles.  Tiger couldn't wait to get to his locker, change, and get the heck outta there. 

One was embarrassed about his failure, the other wanted to spin a positive on his 'good play' that simply fell short. 

And that is all we really need to know abut how these guys tick.  One expects greatness, while the other wants to be held accountable in a tournament that was there for his taking, all the while when he was playing some of the best golf he has ever played. 

After having played this game competitively for over 20 years, I can't accept a guy who likes to accept 2nd, 3rd, 4th, or anything else.  Expect to win or don't show up.  Especially for a guy with your credentials Mr. Mickelson.   

Tiger or Phil? 

I'll take Tiger and give you two a side.  Did I mention we are playing $2 million Nassau?

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