Better Open finish, Tiger or Lefty?


The year's third major is upon us as the golfing world descends on the coastal town of Hoylake in North West England for the Open Championship.

What's in store for the two most famous golfers in the world -- Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson? Is anyone drifting under the radar who might be worth taking a flier on this week at Royal Liverpool?

Our scribes dive into those topics and more in the latest edition of Four-Ball.

1. Better Open Championship finish, Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson?

Michael Collins, senior golf analyst: Phil Mickelson, but that's like being the best-looking guy in an ugly contest. I don't expect either to finish inside the top 25 at this year's championship.

Farrell Evans, senior golf writer: Coming off back surgery, Tiger has no real pressure to play well at Hoylake. These low expectations might free up the three-time Open champion to play more relaxed and free. For this reason, he could be a surprise on the leaderboard and outplay the defending champion, Mickelson, and many of the other favorites.

Bob Harig, senior golf writer: Mickelson. It's simply a matter of common sense. It's way too early to expect Woods to perform well at the Open, given his return from back surgery and lack of practice and competition. Mickelson has not had a great year, but he's had plenty of preparation time, including last week's Scottish Open.

Kevin Maguire, senior golf editor: Tiger's history is better at Hoylake than Mickelson's, but this isn't even close to the same Tiger who owned Royal Liverpool in 2006. Mickelson's year might be a disappointment, but at least he's not coming off back surgery. The nod goes to Lefty, but barely.

Ian O'Connor, senior writer: Mickelson. This isn't a fair fight, even if Lefty sure doesn't look primed for a two-peat. Tiger has played two rounds since back surgery. He's just hoping to be ready to compete by the PGA Championship.

Gene Wojciechowski, senior national columnist: Based simply on golf reps, you have to give the edge to Mickelson. Anything is possible, but Mickelson comes in as the defending Open champion and just played links golf at the Scottish Open. Woods hasn't played in a major since August. Then again, Woods won the Open at this same Royal Liverpool course in 2006 ?

2. What does Phil Mickelson have to focus on most to turn the tide on his tumultuous season?

Collins: Mickelson ranks 107th on tour in strokes gained putting and 141st in driving accuracy. Those two stats (especially SGP) are glaring examples of why Mickelson doesn't have a top-10 on the PGA Tour this year.

Evans: Mickelson has to keep a consistently strong mental focus throughout the week at Hoylake and the rest of the season. At this point in his career, he wants to complete the career Grand Slam by taking the U.S. Open, so it's hard for him to focus 20-odd weeks a year. But few players in the world get up for majors like Phil. At Hoylake, we will see him poised to compete to win.

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