Tiger Woods is coming off a T6 finish at the HSBC Champions in Shanghai.
Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images
Thursday, December 08, 2011

Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson will compete in the JBWere Australian Masters and the Barclays Singapore Open, respectively, this week. They'll be separated by nearly 4,000 miles and three hours, and will play golf while most of America is shrouded in darkness.

Still, serious fans will make like a hammerhead shark and keep one eye on both of them, if only to try to ascertain why the Lennon and McCartney of American golf have at times this season looked more like Moe and Curly. TiVo was made for such a week.

Woods is 34; Mickelson is 40. Both would seem to have a lot of good years left. Then again, with the majors at Augusta, Pebble and St. Andrews, they seemed poised to dominate in 2010.

As the saying goes, predicting is very hard, especially predicting the future.

ON TV
At least you can catch Woods in prime time, starting at 8:30 p.m. (to 1:30 a.m.) on Wednesday on Golf Channel. You'll have to pry yourself away from back-to-back episodes of "Law and Order: SVU."

Good luck watching Mickelson. The Singapore Open's first round will air on Golf Channel from 1:30 to 5 a.m. Thursday. You'll have to pry yourself away from your Sealy Posturepedic.

THE TIGER REPORT
"At the moment," Sergio Garcia said when asked about Woods in Australia this week, "I'm more worried about myself than him."

You may recall Garcia's recent personal crisis, which consisted of wondering if he didn't like soccer more than golf, but probably not.

Poor Sergio. He can't even compete with Tiger's midlife crisis.

Woods will be at Victoria Golf Club this week a year after the event was played at Kingston Heath, where he won and donned the tournament's traditional yellow jacket over his Sunday-red shirt.

"What did they say — last year it was ketchup and mustard, my shirt and jacket," he said with a laugh last week.

The National Enquirer claimed to have caught Tiger with another woman in Melbourne a year ago, sparking the inferno that sold a million newspapers, and since then Woods changed coaches, got divorced and in the middle of all that seemingly lost his putting stroke.

Or perhaps he had lost it already. Remember, he could not hold off Y.E. Yang at the 2009 PGA Championship, and whiffed a seven-foot birdie putt that would have forced a playoff at the '09 Barclays.

Even before everything went so horribly wrong in 2010, Woods had stopped looking bulletproof. Maybe his left knee will never be the same. Maybe he lost his nerve with the flatstick.

"I played well in the bookend rounds," he said at the HSBC, where he shot 68-72-73-68 to tie for sixth. "The middle rounds were obviously a little scratchy."

Earlier this year Woods bemoaned the fact that he could never get his putting and ball-striking working at once. Now he's struggling to post four good rounds. Is it his swing? His putting? Answer: Yes.

"Not a very good day," he said after his third-round 73 in Shanghai. "I missed a lot of makeable putts, didn't hit the ball very well and just never got anything going."

THE PHIL REPORT
The Barclays Singapore has added a course, allowing the field to go from 156 to 204 players. Competitors will be play the Tanjong and Serapong courses Thursday and Friday, Serapong on the weekend.

Mickelson will sell a lot of tickets but Ian Poulter won in '09, when all four rounds were played at Serapong.

In its second year joint-sanctioned by the Asian and European tours, the BSO also will feature Padraig Harrington, Martin Kaymer, Adam Scott, Y.E. Yang and HSBC winner Francesco Molinari.

To put it mildly, Mickelson has been as enigmatic as ever.

"I let a few shots go coming down the stretch," he said after the second round at HSBC, where he was the defending champion and the event's only two-time winner. "I probably turned a 67 or 68 into a 71."

He would finish in a tie for 41st place. Since he won the Masters and nearly won Quail Hollow, he's turned a lot of 68s into 71s. He used to specialize in the opposite.

It's possible that Mickelson just hasn't played enough golf. "I haven't played in a month," he admitted after shooting a 3-under 69 in the first round in Shanghai.

It's possible that, like Woods, Mickelson has lost the magic with the putter. And it's possible, as with Woods, that Mickelson is being weighed down by something far more serious: his health.

He admits he had more trouble than he anticipated finding the right medication and dosages to treat his psoriatic arthritis, a painful autoimmune disease that was diagnosed last summer.

Still, he sounded upbeat about his health last week.

"I've been taking one drug and I feel 100 percent," he said. "I feel terrific. I cannot believe the difference. I've been able to do all of the normal activities in my life. My workouts have been back to where they were. I've been able to practice at whatever level, and I honestly don't feel any different than I did before I got affected."

BY THE NUMBERS
Like last year's Australian Open venue, Kingston Heath, Victoria Golf Club has three par-5s and is a par 72.

One quirk: Whereas Kingston ends with two long par-4s, Victoria's 17th and 18th holes are both par-5s.

Woods has made birdie or better on 45 percent of his par-5s this year, 31st best on Tour.

FOLLOW THE MONEY
The Woods brand hasn't suffered in one respect: He was paid the same amount, $3 million, to play in Australia in 2009 and 2010. His management company, IMG, owns and promotes the tournament.

THE UNDERCARD
Jin Jeong got a sponsor's invitation to play in this week's Australian Masters, and here's why: The South Korean, who lives in Melbourne, not only won the British Amateur, he eagled the 18th hole to tie for 14th at the British Open at St. Andrews, earning low-am honors.

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