Tiger & Phil Book Review
Tiger & Phil: Golf’s Most Fascinating Rivalry
By Bob Harig
Teachers’ Comments: Well written, but I struggled to identify any new ground being covered here.
It goes without saying that for nearly thirty years, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods have been at the center of the golf world. From their amateur exploits to the current twilight of their careers, the two have been linked in the popular imagination.
I am not convinced that it is a rivalry in the Michigan-Ohio State sense, though. In a true rivalry, both parties obsess with beating the other. I have never believed that Tiger gave Phil much thought. Conversely, I wonder how much time Phil spent dwelling on how to beat Tiger.
The “rivalry” seems to me to be more driven by the media’s need for a narrative than anything else. Harig’s book hasn’t convinced me otherwise.
That said, Tiger & Phil is a fun review of the careers of Tiger and Phil. I can’t say that I learned anything new, but it was nice to read it all in one place.
Harig begins with the amateur careers of the pair. This is the part that I found most interesting. Unfortunately, it comprises just fifty of the 350 pages of the volume.
Although both played in Southern California, they were five years apart and neither was really on the other’s radar. Tiger ultimately won three consecutive US Amateur Titles and an NCAA individual Golf Championship. Phil had a US Amateur, three NCAA Individual titles and — perhaps most importantly — a PGA TOUR win as an amateur.
I think there’s a space for a more comprehensive look at the junior amateur, amateur, and college careers of this pair.
Once Phil and Tiger turn pro, the story becomes much more familiar.
With a PGA TOUR win in his pocket, expectations were high for Phil. He bypassed Q School as a result of that Northern Telecom Open victory and won three tournaments in the next three years.
Expectations were also high for Tiger, but initially, they were media driven. As Harig lays it out, there was a realistic chance that Tiger fails to get his Tour card in his limited exemptions after turning pro.
Tiger pulled it off, as we all know, and the rest of his career — and of Phil’s — is well known.
From there, Harig takes the reader through various highlights — and lowlights — of Tiger and Phils careers: Phil’s slow start to Major victories; Winged Foot; Torrey Pines; The Ryder Cup competitions; coach and swing changes; personal failings. There’s a lot here.
At the end of Tiger & Phil, Harig tries to make a case for the rivalry by recounting the trash talking and various intersections of their lives.
In the end, I don’t buy the notion that there was a rivalry in the sense that I think of a rivalry. What we had was two elite players occupying the same relative space and time. The two were bound to be compared, but we didn’t have a situation where the two were finishing 1-and-2 in major tournaments.
Still, I recommend Harig’s Tiger and Phil: Golf’s Most Fascinating Rivalry to anyone interested in the careers of the two most important golfers of the past thirty years. They’re both in the Hall of Famers, and that alone makes their stories worth telling. For students of the professional game, it is a good review; for those who haven’t been paying close attention over the last thirty years, it is a good primer.
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