The importance of putting was driven home again at the 2013 British Open, as Phil Mickelson was on fire and Tiger Woods continued to struggle with his putter. For Mickelson, this victory gave him his first British Open championship and his fifth major. Mickelson may not be the most consistent golfer of his generation, but he’s certainly dominant at times when his game comes together. He birdied four of the last six holes for his come-from-behind victory as Lee Westwood faded as some predicted.
Meanwhile, Woods is naturally being scrutinized from every possible angle. Many writers are focusing on the fact that Woods has never come from behind on Sunday to win a major championship, but that hardly seems like the most important factor. No, his putter has been letting him down, and that’s keeping him from winning the big ones. When Woods was piling up wins, he was one of the best putters in history. And while he’s facing inuries and some of the same struggles golfers face as they get older, his biggest problem seems to be with his putter. He’s still good, but good is a long way from great.
This only highlights the mental aspect of the game, and we all know that Tiger has had more than his share of distractions. One that comes to mind is the drama with his old caddy Steve Williams. The two shook hands after the conclusion of the Open Championship on Sunday at Muirfield after Tiger was paired up with Adam Scott, and it looked like the beginning of the end of a silly feud, but you have to wonder if the unflappable Woods was flapped around a bit having to play with them on Sunday. We’ll never know of course, but we’re well beyond the point where a Woods victory was assumed by the handicappers setting the golf odds for majors.
Tiger has to deal with an adversary in Mickelson who refuses to fade away. Phil still can’t get over the hump at the US Open, but it’s tough to count him out these days, and he’s pushing himself into the conversation regarding golf’s all-time greats. There’s also a slew of younger golfers in the game who aren’t the least bit intimidated by Woods, who hasn’t won a major in five years!
So it’s great for golf that Tiger is in the mix, but the landscape has certainly changed.