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Alan Shipnuck's Mailbag: All Tiger-Phil Edition

Good morning, and thank you for joining me. Many of you readers have cheered for me, have worked with me, have always supported me with questions, however inane they might have been. Now, every one of you has good reason to be critical of me for my erratic Mailbag peformance. [Sniffle. Tear falling on keyboard.] I have committed transgressions. I have lost sight of my core values and not been faithful to the Mailbag. I stopped meditating on the questions, I felt entitled to skip a week and do nothing but work on my magazine stories. [Places hand over heart.]

When you strip away the denials and rationalizations, you come to the truth about your Mailbag work ethic, and the truth is very painful and, frankly, a tad disgusting. A lot of you are wondering, Why didn't I do a Mailbag last week? People want to find out how I could be so selfish and so foolish. People want to know how I could have done this to my readers. And while I have always tried to be a private typist, there are some things I want to say. But, like, I can't say them unless you, the readers, ask me questions.

My editor and I have started the process of discussing the damage caused by my behavior. As he pointed out to me, my real apology to the golf.com faithful will not come in the form of words. Well, actually it will. Lotsa words. Starting next week. Hopefully. There are many people on the Internet who believed in me. Today, I want to ask for your help. I ask you to find room in your heart to one day believe in me again. And to send in some damn questions. Thank you. [Long, sorrowful embrace with MacBook Pro.]

Since Phil usually does better when the pressure is off of him to be the main guy, how do you rate his chances at Augusta? Lots of people are forgetting that he beat Tiger head to head there last year.
—Brian March26_woods_600x400

I think the return of Tiger benefits Phil more than any other player. Mickelson has lacked a certain energy so far this year but he should get a needed jolt by having his old adversary around. And for Phil, returning to Augusta will stir the memories of his incredible front nine during last year's Masters, when he turned his vaunted playing partner into little more than window dressing. As you point out, Brian, the pressure to be the man and carry the sport seemed to weigh heavily on Mickelson. Now, with all the attention on Woods, Phil can sneak into Augusta and make another run at a third jacket. I certainly expect him to be in the mix late on Sunday.

Watch some redneck with a belly full of beer give Tiger a blast at the Masters. I can see it coming. It will be interesting to see just how tough Stevie Williams really is. Personally, I hope Williams ends up being thrown in the lake on 16 on Friday afternoon. This could really be a great Masters.
—Toni from Chualar, Cal.

Funny thing about Stevie, he's going to be scrutinized almost as carefully as Tiger. He's cultivated the image as such a vigilante of gallery justice that it's almost like he's daring someone to test him. I don't expect it to happen at the Masters, at least not during the actual tournament rounds. The practice rounds are a bit more of a free-for-all but Thurs.-Sun. no one gets in there on a one-day pass. The patron badges are good for all four rounds and often shared among family, friends and business associates. If a fan does something stupid and gets the badge revoked there will be dozens of people affected. But the Masters is its own little universe. Once Stevie gets out in the real world, the yahoo factor goes up significantly. Will he be able to handle it? I'm not so sure.

Alan, How is it that Gary Koch thinks every single shot he's calling is "awkward"? Next time you are watching an NBC telecast count the number of times GK uses that word. It's constant. Almost in the Bob Rosburg "He's got NO shot" camp. Can we come up with some new adjectives for Gary to use this week at Bay Hill?
—MacKenzie

I've never noticed this verbal tic but will now study's Friday telecast in forensic detail. In the meantime, here are some suggestions for Koch: discomfiting, dicey, prickly, ticklish, spiky, thorny, and, my personal favorite, FUBAR.

I'm a huge Tiger fan but really can't get my head around the fact that he has been associated with some obscure Canadian doctor, Anthony Galea, a Canadian football team physician. I'm supposed to believe that there aren't about a 1,000 more doctors here in the U.S. more qualified and world renowned for their expertise with knee injuries? The only thing this Canadian doctor is known for is his use of HGH, which is legal in Canada and his association with some well-known baseball cheaters (A-Rod for one). So I guess my question here is why it seems like the golfing media is content to give Tiger a free pass on this issue? Especially when you consider the remarkable transformation in Woods's physique, from a Charles Howell like waif to NFL starting strong safety... Is it fair to say that any reporter or news agency that dared look into this would be forever blacklisted from ever getting a story from Tiger again? —Jerry Oram

The only "reporters" who have given Tiger a free pass on this are Tom Rinaldi and Kelly Tilghman. They're the only ones who have interviewed Woods since his association with Dr. Galea came to light and I was surprised and disappointed neither pressed him on it. I can assure you many scribes, including this typist, are deeply interested in the Woods-Galea relationship and I guarantee it will be brought up during Woods's Masters press conference. I hope he is forthcoming.

This perception about a blacklist is laughable. The fact is, no reporter was getting meaningful access to Woods before the scandal. He's already shown he's now going to be more cloistered and controlling than before. Why would anyone try to curry favor with a subject who would never reciprocate? The press was never beholden to Woods before, but going forward there is going to be a new level of scrutiny, candor and criticism. And impudence. (Photo: Mike Ehrmann/SI)

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by Kevin Cunningham