Truth and Rumors: Can Phil get motivated without Tiger?

Phil + no Tiger = uninspired playJust as Affleck needs Damon and The Edge needs Bono, Phil, it is becoming increasingly clear, needs Tiger. What else to make of Mickelson’s sloppy one-over-par 71 at Colonial yesterday—yet another listless round for Lefty when he competes in a Tiger-less field. Larry Dorman of the New York Times reports:

In a trend that started at the Tour Championship last season, Mickelson seems to have been saving his best performances for tournaments in which Woods was also playing.
In fact, of the last five tournaments in which both were in the field, Mickelson won three, finished second in one and tied for 17th in another. He finished first at the 2009 Tour Championship, first at the ’09 WGC-HSBC Champions, first at the Masters, second at the Quail Hollow Championship and tied for 17th at the Players Championship, fading to a closing 74 after starting the day five strokes off the pace before Woods had to withdraw with a neck problem.
Before the Woods as Motivation theme is dismissed, it should be mentioned that in Mickelson’s first seven events preceding this year’s Masters, during which Woods was absent, Mickelson had only one top-10 finish (tied for eighth at AT&T Pebble Beach) and no other finishes higher than 19th.

Kudos to Phil. It wasn’t long ago that you could count on players—Mickelson included—slinking away from contention like petrified kittens anytime Woods was within striking distance. Now, for Phil at least, it's quite the opposite: Tiger is Lefty’s motivator, just as Spike Lee was to Reggie Miller or the nerds were to Alpha Beta. Don't know about you, but I can't wait for Pebble… After schooling pros, Jordan Spieth returns to homeroom We can safely assume that Jordan Spieth, the 16-year-old who finished T16 at the Byron Nelson last week, didn’t have trouble finding a date for his junior prom. Spieth, who returned to school—and English class—on Monday, tells Jim Halley of USA Today:

"They gave me a standing ovation in the class. I think some of my friends just wanted to see if I would blush."

Halley also caught up with Spieth’s swing coach, Cameron McCormick, who noted of his student:

"I wasn't surprised he did as well as he did and, some people might say, contended. If you look at it, and you look at the opportunities he did miss, I see no reason to suggest that he couldn't have won that event as a 16-year-old amateur. He certainly expects more from himself now."

Personally, I pity the kids against whom Spieth competes in American Junior Golf Association events. (“Hi, Jordan, I'm Billy. I shot 78 last weekend and went to a Nick Jonas concert. What have you been up to?) Spieth, the reigning U.S. Junior champ, sits atop the Polo Rankings, the AJGA’s equivalent of the money list, and yesterday he began first-round play in the tour’s Thunderbird International in Scottsdale, Ariz.

In a few weeks, he's going to play the PGA Tour's St. Jude Classic in Memphis and says he'd like to be in as many Tour events as he can. He also says he hopes to qualify for the U.S. Open. He's scheduled to play a sectional qualifier starting June 7 in The Woodlands, Texas.

Gentle Ben's Colorado course not so gentle  Last week Ernie Els took a verbal beatdown from his peers for his extreme makeover of Wentworth’s West Course, site of the BMW Championship. (Miguel Angel Jiminez likened Els’ handiwork to defacing Picasso.) This week it’s Ben Crenshaw’s turn as the senior circuit slogs its way around Crenshaw and Bill Coore’s Colorado Golf Club, the 7,490-yard (!) site of the Senior PGA Championship; in yesterday’s first round 24 players failed to break 80. While on hiatus from his hush-toned gig on ESPN, the Denver Post’s Woody Paige filed a colorful report of the players’ reaction to the course:

Publicly, all the pros have praised Colorado Golf Club this week as worthy of a championship. Privately, an accomplished professional said after a warm-up round early in the week that he hated the course like an IRS audit and that every shot to the green on the 4s and 5s was blind. He withdrew Thursday before teeing off. For those keeping score at home, Peter Jacobsen, Hal Sutton and Paul Azinger opted out Thursday, citing "illness" and "injury." Of course. Later somebody named Rod Spittle quit. He wasn't worth spit at CGC.

Tour pros love to bemoan tough tracks, particularly at majors, and particularly if they haven’t played well. (Show me a squeaky wheel and I’ll show you a guy who just shot 79.) But it’s rare you hear anyone go after Crenshaw and Coore, the Simon and Garfunkel of course designers. Frankly, the best thing ol‘ Ben (who’s in the field this week) can do is keep his head down, avoid launching an Els-like defensive and show the boys his course in indeed playable. So far, so good: Crenshaw carded an even-par 71 Thursday, six off the lead.