In the world of pro golf, one makes a living at regular tour events. One makes history at the four majors.
Tiger has won 14 majors in his career … 4 short of the all-time record of 18 held by Jack Nicklaus. Phil has won 5 … more than any other active player. Tiger hasn't won a major since the summer of 2008. Phil has won 2 since Tiger's last.
Tiger is an international celebrity of the highest order. He is respected by fellow competitors and fans, but not loved. Tiger is a ferocious competitor who intimidates many players. His on course behavior can be crude and off-putting. Tiger may hit bad shots. He never hits stupid shots. He doesn't beat himself.
Phil is a sports celebrity, but not of Tiger's magnitude. He's liked by his fellow competitors, and loved by the fans. He's unfailingly good-natured and polite, on the course and off.
To his detriment, Phil sometimes plays like a man with attention deficit disorder. He's equally capable of holing out from behind a tree or three putting from four feet. He gives his fans a roller coaster ride, which has earned him the nickname, Phil the Thrill.
Phil likes to play practice matches with up-and-coming young players for a few hundred dollars with a lot of side bets, banter, and good-natured ribbing. Tiger is more driven and private in his preparations.
Every time Tiger tees it up in a major, he's playing for history. Can he get to or surpass Jack's record? Tiger is 37 now, and hasn't won a major in 5 years. If he passes Jack, he will have a claim on being the greatest athlete of all time.
Phil is 43. He has more of his best golf behind him than in front of him. Phil loves the big moment on the big stage. He has no problem going head to head with Tiger. The more challenging the conditions, the better. Phil may have some crazy in him. He doesn't have any scared.
Tiger and Phil have been paired in the same group 30 times in their careers. Their record is 13-13, with 4 ties. There is no doubt that they are both aware of that stat. They both probably know that since 2007, Phil holds an 8-3 advantage over Tiger.
On Thursday, August 8, Tiger and Phil will tee it up at the PGA Championship in Rochester, NY, the last major of the year. On the first two days of the four day event, Tiger and Phil will not be playing in the same group.
On the last two days, players are grouped by their scores, with the two best scores teeing off last. If the forces of the universe are correctly aligned, Tiger and Phil will be tied for the lead after two days, and play the last two days face to face.
We're talking Frazier-Ali; Yankees-Red Sox. Let's do it.
I will post again on Wednesday, September 11, 2013 (or before, if the news flow dictates) and, for the time being, I will post on the first Wednesday of each month.
Comments are welcome at tomc[at]wednesdayswars[dot]com. Name and town if you wish to opine. Comments will be addressed in subsequent posts.