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Tiger & Phil: Golf's Most Fascinating Rivalry


Tiger & Phil: Golf's Most Fascinating Rivalry

In the world of sports, classic rivalries are usually between teams. It might be the Yankees/Red Sox, Bears/Packers, Michigan/Ohio State or Army/Navy, but it is always a battle steeped in tradition. Professional golf is different; with the exception of certain team events, it's a contest between individuals. Throughout the years, there have been rivalries in the sport --- Ben Hogan/Sam Snead and Arnold Palmer/Jack Nicklaus immediately come to mind.

However, the modern rivalry that seemingly ranks highest in the golfing world is the one between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. In addition to frequent battles on the course, their personal lives have been a key part of their rivalry. TIGER & PHIL by golf writer Bob Harig is an exhaustive and appealing account of these legendary golfers, whose careers have dominated the end of the 20th century and the first decades of the 21st.

"TIGER & PHIL is the wonderful story of two men who will long be remembered for their contributions to professional golf."

I must confess to some indifference on the notion that this has been a rivalry that mirrors others in the sporting world. While Phil has his acolytes and is popular in his own right, he has never been a serious challenger to Tiger’s domination of the sport. Tiger won eight major championships before Phil won his first, and early in his career he completed the “Tiger Slam,” capturing all four majors consecutively over a two-year period. He has won 15 majors and trails only Nicklaus in that category. Phil has six majors to his credit, and while his 2021 victory at the PGA Championship at age 50 made him the oldest major winner in golf history, he has yet to win the U.S. Open.

The rivalry may be more media hype than reality, but the two men remain the biggest names in golf. And they share in their careers physical injuries, legal disputes, personal tribulations and a love-hate relationship with sports journalists.

Whether this is the story of a rivalry or just a dual biography, TIGER & PHIL is great reading. Their contrasting styles is well-documented by Harig. Phil grew up in southern California in a golfing family. His amateur career boomed while attending Arizona State University, and at age 20 he won the Tucson Open, becoming only the sixth amateur golfer to win a professional tournament. He also captured three NCAA individual championships and a U.S. Amateur victory, becoming the first left-handed golfer to achieve that.

Tiger’s background was a little more structured. His father, Earl Woods, was very protective of him and demanded a strict work ethic. Tiger would win three consecutive U.S. Amateur championships, the first golfer to accomplish that feat. In 1996, on the day of Tiger’s third championship, Phil won the World Series of Golf for his ninth PGA Tour win. Tiger joined the PGA Tour after his Amateur victory and quickly surpassed Phil’s accomplishments, becoming the dominant professional golfer in the world.

There is no doubt that Tiger and Phil have been rivals throughout their careers, and even when they are occasional teammates, things have not gone well. In the 2004 Ryder Cup, they played together as partners in two matches as the United States battled Europe. Tiger and Phil were soundly thrashed, and the U.S. team was crushed by their European counterparts. The most recent Ryder Cup found both players absent from the tournament for the first time in decades. A new group of young Americans led the U.S. to victory. In team competition, Tiger and Phil seem to have lost their competitive edge.

Harig thoroughly details their personal difficulties, as well as the occasional flashes of friendship that have marked their careers. While they certainly are not close friends, there is a great deal of respect and admiration for all they have accomplished. TIGER & PHIL is the wonderful story of two men who will long be remembered for their contributions to professional golf.

Reviewed by Stuart Shiffman on April 29, 2022

Tiger & Phil: Golf's Most Fascinating Rivalry
by Bob Harig

  • Publication Date: May 16, 2023
  • Genres: Nonfiction, Sports
  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
  • ISBN-10: 1250830214
  • ISBN-13: 9781250830210