‘Higher Than Anyone Imagined’: An Influential Moment From Phil Mickelson’s Career, Involving Tiger Woods, Comes Into Light Per His Nemesis

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Phil Mickelson’s career history was at the center of many golf discussions after a controversial writer’s book on the Lefty came out. Recently, the talks have dulled down a bit, after the writer’s latest book on LIV Golf took all the attention.

Meanwhile, Tiger Woods recently mentioned his long-lasting rival in a conversation about TGL. And adding to the rekindled curiosity about the Woods-Mickelson rivalry, we found an excerpt from the writer’s book on Mickelson. The bit talks about the glorious stint Woods displayed at the Augusta National roughly a quarter of a century ago and the impact it had on Lefty.

Alan Shipnuck’s book on Phil Mickelson is sort of a biography, although we are not sure if it can be called that. He discusses Lefty’s career in detail. And one part of it mentions his decision to switch to a different coach in the year 1997. And perhaps it was just in time, as Mickelson witnessed something grand that year.

By the end of 1996, Mickelson had hired Rick Smith as a new swing coach. Although he had won four times in 1996, and was generally considered a top player, Mickelson hadn’t won a major at that point. This was when Tiger Woods pulled off a wild performance at the Masters in 1997.

As Shipnuck wrote it, “After Woods’s demolition of Augusta National, Smith felt a difference in his pupil. “It was pretty clear the bar had been raised,” says Smith. “Higher than anyone imagined possible, really.””

Now, to the Tiger Woods discussing Phil Mickelson part. Woods responded to a question about the difference between LIV and TGL, by saying TGL has him, and LIV has Mickelson. The two have shared a consistent and popular rivalry since their early days.

Slowing down from his four wins in 1996, the 27-year-old Mickelson bagged two wins in the year 1997. The same repeated in 1998 as well. This worsened in 1999 when he had no wins to his name.

And the stereotypical story arc of a hero rising from his ashes suddenly applied to Mickelson. He won his first tournament of 2000, the Buick Invitational, with a remarkable feat. Mickelson ended the six-win streak of Tiger Woods, by winning the tournament. He won three more tournaments that year.

And to give a conclusion to that little story, Mickelson ended his no-major-win streak in 2004, by winning the Masters that year. Post that, he won the Masters two more times in his career so far. Remarkably, Mickelson’s 2004 Masters victory influenced this talented golfer.

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