With the prospect of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson going head-to-head in an exhibition match and a $10 million prize, StatJacks is looking at the tale of the tape for these two PGA Heavyweights.  

Tiger

Most golf fans know all about Tiger’s accolades, but looking back at them you can’t help but be astounded.  Nowadays Tiger is just starting to be competitive again.  He hasn’t won a major since 2008, and hasn’t been the #1 ranked golfer since 2014.  Looking at the best the PGA Tour has to offer today (Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, to name a few), it becomes more and more clear that Tiger was just the best.  All the names mentioned above have awed fans with greatness but, just as often, buckled under the pressure and blown leads in the final round with historic fashion.  When Tiger had a lead in a Major, it was church for the rest of the competition and they knew it.  When Tiger needed to make a putt, he made the putt, no doubt.  Tiger won 14 straight majors in which he had a lead going into the final round.  There is no golfer today that would even be considered to have a label of “Clutch”.  You could comfortably say that Tiger is/was the most “Clutch” athlete of all-time and dare someone to debate you on it.  But moving away from perception, let’s look at the numbers.

We all know that Tiger has won 14 Majors (ranked 2nd all-time to Jack Nicklaus) and has 79 PGA Tour wins (ranked 2nd all-time to Sam Snead).  He is also one of five golfers all-time to have a Grand Slam winning each of the 4 Majors.  He’s actually won each major at least 3 times and is the only golfer to win four majors in a row which was part of a stretch where he won 6 out of 9.  Since the inception of the Official World Golf Ranking in 1986, Tiger has spent a record 683 weeks as the #1 ranked golfer.  That’s over 13 years of his life where he could say that he was the best at his sport.  What other athlete could do that?  That is over double the next person on the list which is Greg Norman with 331.  From June 2005 to October 2010, Tiger spent a record 281 consecutive weeks as the #1 ranked golfer.  From August 1999 to October 2010, Tiger spent 553 of the 585 weeks as the World #1.  From 1997 to 2005, he went a span of 163 consecutive tournaments in which he made the cut.  For anyone that plays golf knows that from one day to the next, or even one hole to the next, your ball striking could be off.  For 163 consecutive tournaments he never slipped and was better than half the field for at least the first two days.  That model of consistency is unparalleled.   

Tiger Woods is the Ultimate #1.  During his lengthy prime, he was head and shoulders above the rest hands down.  According to the World Golf Ranking points system, Tiger has had the 4 greatest seasons since the 1986 inception, and 7 of the top 8 seasons.  Vijay Singh was the other golfer who was ranked as the 5th greatest season in 2004 when he had 9 PGA Tour wins including the PGA Championship.  Some might say “Well what about Jack Nicklaus?”  Sure, Jack holds the record for 18 Majors, but who really played golf back then?  The most wins Jack had in a season was 7 which he did twice.  Tiger has 6 different seasons which he had 7 or more wins.  Comparing eras between Jack and Tiger, the level of golf popularity, the level of media scrutiny, the added pressure all goes Tiger’s way.  And just looking at the level of dominance Tiger displayed (i.e. winning the Masters by a record 12 strokes in 1997, winning the US Open by a record 15 strokes in 2000, winning the British Open by 8 strokes in 2000), most would believe that Tiger is the best. 

Phil

So how do you compare someone to the greatest?  Phil Mickelson will go down as one of the greatest golfers of all-time.  However, at no point in his career was he ever the greatest.  Phil is considered to be Tiger’s greatest rival during his career.  Other rivals to mention include Vijay Singh, Ernie Els, and David Duval.  All three of which have been ranked as the World #1 at some point during Tiger’s dominance.  Phil never did.  Mickelson has won 5 Majors (ranked 14th all-time) and has 43 PGA Tour wins (ranked 9th all-time) yet was never ranked as the #1 golfer.   Phil has spent 270 total weeks (5 years and 10 weeks) as the World Golf Ranking #2.  The golfer with the second most weeks as a #2 without being #1 is Jim Furyk with 39 weeks.  

Seems like Mickelson is used to “almost” being the best.  For a long time in his career he had the label of “Greatest golfer to never win a major”.  Before his first major victory in the 2004 Masters, Phil had a total of 22 PGA Tour wins.  To put that into perspective, 22 wins would current rank as tied for 27th all-time.  This is more wins than any active player excluding Phil and Tiger.  The 3rd highest win total for an active PGA Tour player is Ernie Els with 19.  Today, the golfer with the most wins without a major is Stuart Appleby with 9.  You may want to also consider Steve Stricker who is over 50 and on the Champions Tour but has 12 PGA wins and still his tournaments on PGA Tour.  In any case, 22 is a lot. At the point in time when Phil won his first major, Tiger, who is 5 ½ years his junior, already had 45 wins including 8 majors.  

Continuing with the “almost” theme, Phil to date has won 3 Masters, 1 British Open, and 1 PGA Championship with the US Open eluding him.  This is a tournament in which Phil has come in 2nd place 6 times. 6 Times?  Cue LeBron…


Not 1, Not 2, Not 3, Not 4, Not 5….6 times.  He finished 2nd in the US Open to Payne Stewart, Tiger Woods, Retief Goosen, Geoff Ogilvy, Lucas Glover, and Justin Rose.  Any one of those tournaments could have put Mickelson in the elite status of a Grand Slam golfer.  

We talked about Tiger’s consistency.  But how about the consistency and longevity of Phil Mickelson.  In late 1993, the 23 year old Phil Mickelson entered the top 50 of the World Golf Rankings.  And he has never been outside the top 50 ever since.  Phil is sitting on 1,284 consecutive weeks and coming up on 25 straight years where he has been ranked in the top 50.  And just to think, he did this all while playing left-handed!  With Phil currently ranked 20th in the World and still playing well, he should stay inside that mark for a while.  Especially after his win at the prestigious WGC Mexico Championship is March of this year.  When thinking of a number 2 in sports, the Buffalo Bills come to mind, Alydar comes to mind.  But the Ultimate #2 has to go to Phil Mickelson.

Tale of the Tape


Prediction

We aren’t able to make a prediction until we know what course will be played and what form each golfer is in.  But for now we’re saying that if Tiger and Phil do a side bet under the table, which is likely, we think Phil will take it.  But Tiger can’t let Phil beat him can he?  We’ll see how serious the golfers actually take it, but for the fans it should be a joy to watch.