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Opinion & Analysis

Why a furious Phil Mickelson confronted Vijay Singh in the locker room at the 2005 Masters



The 2005 Masters has gone down in folklore for that chip-in on 16 on Sunday that paved the way for Tiger Woods to end his three-year major ‘drought’ and kickstart his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus.

However, plenty of drama preceded Woods’ stunning victory that week.

At the time, Vijay Singh held the top spot in the World Rankings, followed by Woods, Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els – to comprise The Big Four.

Unlike most of today’s elite pros, 17 years ago, there was constant friction between the elite players at the top of the World Rankings.

While Mickelson and Woods’ testy relationship at this period in their careers has long been documented, Singh was another man who had no problem needling any of the other big four. And three weeks before the 2005 Masters, the Fijian did just that.

At Bay Hill, tour player Tom Pernice, a friend of Singh, reportedly asked officials to check the coefficient of restitution (spring-like effect) of Woods’ driver. Many believed the request was a Machiavellian move by Singh, with the club adjudged to be comfortably within the legal limits.

With relations terse between the four alpha players and the intensity of the Masters on the horizon, it’s perhaps, in hindsight, no surprise that there was trouble coming at Augusta National, where Singh decided to ruffle some more feathers.

The controversy began on the 12th hole on Friday, when Singh, playing a group behind Mickelson, called in a rules official. The 2000 champ complained to the official that Mickelson’s spikes were leaving significant marks in the green.

Lefty had switched to 8mm metal spikes from 6mm a few weeks before the event, and when the official approached him on the 13th green regarding Singh’s complaint, Mickelson was told that another official would come and ‘file down’ his spikes.

Mickelson’s playing partner that day was Stuart Appleby, who, per his caddie, hilariously quipped at the time: “What are they going to send? A blacksmith?”

The filing never happened, with Will Nicholson, chair of Augusta National’s competition committee telling media: “One of our officials talked to Phil to see if there was a burr on the side of one of his spikes. He very generously, as you know he would, said he would change them when he got in if there was a problem. There wasn’t.”

The drama, however, was far from over.

Addressing the media following his round, Mickelson revealed that he confronted Vijay in the locker room after he heard him talking to other players about the incident.

“I was extremely distracted and would have appreciated if it would have been handled differently or after the round. After sitting in the locker room for a while, I heard Vijay talking to other players about it, and I confronted him. He expressed his concerns. I expressed my disappointment with the way it was handled.’’

According to sources at the time, however, it appears that Mickelson was giving a heavily watered-down version of the confrontation.

Per multiple inside sources, Mickelson entered Augusta’s champions locker room after his round and overheard Singh criticizing him to other champions present. That sparked Mickelson to yell at Singh and call him a “motherf—-r” before asking him if he wanted to settle the issue outside. Singh did not.

Vijay did not speak to media after his round either.

On a recent episode of the podcast ‘Chasing Majors’, Tiger’s caddie at the time, Steve Williams, confirmed that there was a very heated discussion in the locker room but remained tight-lipped on the juicy details.

“I think it was just Phil and Vijay,” said Steve Williams about the whole situation. Williams admitted that the spikes marks were longer than normal ones would leave but that “they were within the… they were certainly legal..

“I understand there was a bit of a heated conversation in the locker room.”  Williams added. “There’s no love lost between those two, that’s for sure.”

On Saturday on the range at Augusta, Singh spent a lot of time glaring at Mickelson, who, for his part, refused to look in Vijay’s direction.

Mickelson would finish 10th that year before winning the second of his three green jackets in 2006, while Singh, who was displaced that week as number one in the world by Tiger Woods, ended the event in a tie for fifth.

Has the rivalry between the two softened with age?

Well, in 2020, when Singh caught some heat for taking a spot in a Korn Ferry Tour event, Mickelson sprung to his old foe’s defence, saying:

“It’s no secret VJ and I aren’t close, but I’d like to say on his behalf that in addition to being a member of the HoF, he’s a big part of the PGA Tour’s success which financially subsidizes, and always has, the KFT. He has earned the right to play when and where he wants.”

Following Mickelson’s controversial comments and links to the Saudi-backed golf league this year, Singh, like almost every pro golfer, has yet to offer any public support.

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Gianni is the Managing Editor at GolfWRX. He can be contacted at [email protected]com.



  1. Pingback: Biographer claims this is the shock real reason why Mickelson and caddie Bones split – GolfWRX

  2. Gunter Eisenberg

    Apr 7, 2022 at 9:18 pm

    This would have been extremely relevant….17 years ago. Instashank.

  3. Chris

    Apr 7, 2022 at 1:58 pm

    Cancel culture sucks.

  4. Chuck

    Apr 6, 2022 at 8:05 pm

    Recall the anonymous poll of Tour players a few years ago, in which one of the questions was, “If you were in a bar fight, which Tour player would you want on your side?”
    The reportedly unanimous answer was Ernie Els.
    Which is additionally funny, because among the so-called Big Four of the early 2000’s, Ernie Els has practically zero “friction” with the others. (Well, maybe not Mickelson who found friction with everyone, but not on Els’ part.)
    I think this was a mostly-accurate recounting of Spikegate, but with two omissions.
    One was the egregiousness of what Mickelson was doing back then. The greens were quite wet, and the surfaces of that era were really susceptible to spike marks, which by rule could not be touched. And Mickelson in those days where he looked at the cup from four sides, standing about four feet away from the hole. It was sort of outrageous.
    The second omission was the rumored role of Fred Couples, who apparently got in Mickelson’s face during the locker room confrontation and said something to the effect of, “You just got here, and you’re already being an a—hole.”

  5. Professor

    Apr 6, 2022 at 11:09 am

    Phil doesn’t want any part of Vijay! It’d be hard to even call it a fight. Phil would have absolutely no chance. No chance.

    • Phil Fan

      Apr 30, 2022 at 12:42 pm

      I think you would be surprised. Phil would be a tough out. He’s tenacious.

  6. Gary Ahlert

    Apr 6, 2022 at 10:38 am

    The way the PGA has treated Mickelson has been nothing less than a disgrace. The hypocrisy and dishonesty of the PGA tour is stunning. Their relations with China are now under investigation and rightly so. Phil’s language regarding the Saudi’s many have been rough, but the nonetheless correct. I have made it a point to watch less and less of PGA events. How dare the Master’s dis-invite Phil from playing. Who are these pompous phonies kidding?
    Phil should be screaming from the rooftops over the injustice of what has happened to him and filing an massive lawsuit against the PGA for restraint of trade as well as slander and libel.

    • Jim K

      Apr 7, 2022 at 2:19 pm

      First of all, Mickelson wasn’t disinvited to the Masters. It was his decision not to play. As far as the Saudi thing, it wasn’t that he didn’t correctly describe them as murderers, it was that he’s perfectly willing to jump in bed with them as long as it puts more money in his pocket.

      • Hulieo Aeglesis

        Apr 11, 2022 at 9:16 pm

        The bottom line with Philgate in 2022 is that IT’S a FACT the the PGA Tour management are a bunch of tyranny lovin’ leftist control freaks and very much like corporate America as a whole. IMHO, the PGA shouldn’t have ANY control over ANY player’s media rights, PERIOD. The PGA doesn’t OWN golf, just like NASCAR doesn’t OWN stock car racing, hence TWO monopolies creating disfavor for themselves…

        • Hosay Louis Hola Thimble

          Apr 27, 2022 at 10:22 pm

          Cancel everyone with the FACTS

  7. GaryA

    Apr 6, 2022 at 10:36 am

    The way the PGA has treated Mickelson has been nothing less than a disgrace. The hypocrisy and dishonesty of the PGA tour is stunning. Their relations with China are now under investigation and rightly so. Phil’s language regarding the Saudi’s many have been rough, but the nonetheless correct. I have made it a point to watch less and less of PGA events. How dare the Master’s dis-invite Phil from playing. Who are these pompous phonies kidding?
    Phil should be screaming from the rooftops over the injustice of what has happened to him and filing an massive lawsuit against the PGA for restraint of trade as well as slander and libel.

  8. El Hijo de Phil

    Apr 6, 2022 at 10:33 am

    I guess Phil loves to call people M’Fers, lol….

  9. Amy

    Apr 6, 2022 at 9:59 am

    Lift the BAN USGA who host a Saudi tournament
    PHIL >>>

  10. grammarian

    Apr 6, 2022 at 8:56 am

    correction: ruffle some feathers

  11. Mo

    Apr 6, 2022 at 8:04 am

    I 100% got my money on former bouncer Vijay if it had ever come down to it.

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Opinion & Analysis

The best bets for the 2023 Scandinavian Mixed



There could hardly be a more distinct difference between two courses holding consecutive events.

Last week, 20-year-old Tom McKibbin pounded his way around the 7500-odd-yards of Green Eagle to break his maiden in impressive fashion, courtesy of this outstanding approach shot to the 72nd hole. Remind you of anyone at that age?

Fast forward not long and the DPWT arrives at Ullna Golf and Country Club for the third renewal of the mixed-gender Scandanavian Mixed.

The welcome initiative sees male and female players on the course at the same time, playing to the same pins. Only movement of the tee boxes distinguishes the challenge, and whilst there is water aplenty at this coastal track, yardages of no more than 7000 and 6500 yards should frighten none of the top lot in each sex.

Genders are one-all at the moment, with Jonathan Caldwell winning the inaugural event thanks to a lacklustre Adrian Otaegui, and the brilliant Linn Grant winning by a country mile last season.

Most will be playing their approach shots from the same distance this week and with neither particularly stretched, this may be the most open of mixed events yet.

Defending champ Linn Grant and fellow home player Madelene Sagstrom look on a different level to the rest of the European ladies this week, but preference is clearly for the 23-year-old winner of eight worldwide events, including her last two in Sweden.

Last season, the Arizona State graduate took a two-shot lead into the final round before an unanswered eight-birdie 64 saw her cross the line nine shots in front of Mark Warren and Henrik Stenson, her nearest female rival being 14 shots behind.

Since that victory, Grant has won two events on the LET, the latest being a warm-up qualifying event for the upcoming Evian Championship, held at the same course and at which she was 8th last year. The Swede is making her mark on the LPGA Tour,

Given the yardage advantage she has off the tee amongst her own sex, the pin-point accuracy of her irons and a no-frills attitude when in contention, this looks no more difficult than last year.  If there is a a market on ‘top female player,’ there may be a long queue.

He’s been expensive to follow for win purposes, but Alexander Bjork is another home player that will revel with the emphasis on accuracy.

There isn’t a awful lot to add to last week’s preview (or indeed the previous week’s) which both highlighted just how well the Swede is playing.

Recommended Bets:

  • Linn Grant
  • Alexander Bjork


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Opinion & Analysis

Winning and the endowment effect



A central concept in behavioral economics is the endowment effect. Coined by Richard Thaler at the University of Chicago, the endowment effect describes how people tend to value items they own more highly than they would if they did not belong to them. So how does this relate to sports, or more specifically, to golf? Let me explain.

Golf is hard. Winning is harder. Golf has created a lure where winning major championships is the hardest of all. The problem is that mathematically a win is a win. This means that valuing wins differently is actually an instance of the application of the endowment effect in golf.

Winning in golf creates an inverse normal distribution where winning can be very hard, then easy, and then very hard again. To win, players must evoke the “hot hand”; this is the idea that success breeds success. In golf, the reality is that birdies come in streaks; players typically enjoy a run of birdies over a couple of holes. The goal for every player is to hold this streak for as long as possible. The longer and more often they are able to do this, the more likely a player is to win.

Another question is, how much do players value wins? At the current moment, up to the PGA Jon Rahm sees winning as easier (or less valuable) with his recent win at the Masters and other early season events to accompany his U.S. Open win from 2021. However, that changed at the PGA, when he opened with a round in the mid-70s. All of a sudden the lure of the trophy distracted Rahm. Likewise, we saw both Corey Conners and Hovland hit extremely rare shots into the face of the bunker on Saturday and Sunday. These are shots that do not happen under distribution. In my opinion, the prestige of a major was at the root of these shots.

To overcome the barrier of becoming a champion, players must first understand that winning is not special. Instead, winning is a result of ample skills being applied in duration with the goal of gaining and holding the hot hand. The barrier for most players with enough skill to win, the endowment effect tells us, is that they overvalue winning. Doing so may prevent them from ever getting the hot hand. So maybe, just maybe, the key to winning more is wanting to win less. Easier said than done when one’s livelihood is on the line, but to overvalue a win at one specific tournament, be it the Masters or the two-day member guest, may be doing more harm than good.

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Opinion & Analysis

The best bets for the 2023 Porsche European Open



Green Eagle hosts the European Open for the sixth consecutive time, missing only the pandemic year of 2020.

Known for its potential to stretch to 7800 yards, this monster course in Hamburg is able to reduce itself to around 7300, a far less insurmountable proposition that allows the non-bombers to make use of their pin-point iron play.

Of the top 16 players last year (top 10 and ties) nine fell into the top 12 for tee-to-green, split into those that made it off-the-tee (six in the top-12) and those from approach play (total of four players). Go back to 2021 and champion Marcus Armitage won the shortened three-round event with a ranking of 40th off-the-tee, whereas four of the remaining top-10 ranked in single figures for the same asset.

It’s a real mix, and whilst I’m definitely on the side of those that hit it a long way, there are more factors at work here, particularly a solid relationship with the Italian Open, as well as events in the Czech Republic and Dubai, weeks that allow drivers to open up a tad.

Last year’s winner Kalle Samooja has a best of 2023 at the Marco Simone Club, a tournament won by Adrian Meronk, and with a top-10 containing the big-hitters Julien Guerrier, Nicolai Hojgaard and Daniel Van Tonder, with Armitage a couple of shots away in ninth place.

Like Armitage, the Finn also boasts a win in China (although at differing courses) where solid driver Sean Crocker (third) carries a link between the Czech Masters, being runner-up to Johannes Veerman (10th here, eighth Italy), and another bomber Tapio Pulkkanen, whose best effort this year has been at the Ryder Cup venue to be.

Of the 35-year-old Englishman, his only other victory came in the 2018 Foshan Open, where his nearest victims included Alexander Knappe, Mattieu Pavan and Ryan Fox, all constantly there in the lists for top driving, with Bernd Ritthammer (tied runner-up here 2019) in ninth place.

Amidst plenty of Crans and Alfred Dunhill form on various cards, 2022 Italian Open winner Robert Macintyre was the second of three that tied in second place here behind the classy Paul Casey in 2019, as well as tying with Matthias Schwab at Olgiata, Italy, in the same year.

The Austrian, now plying his trade on the other side of the pond, also brings in the third of three players that ran up here, a seventh place at Green Eagle, two top-10 finishes at Albatross and top finishes at the Dubai Desert Classic and China.

Current favourites Victor Perez and Rasmus Hojgaard both disappointed last week at the Dutch Open, and whilst that occurred in completely differing circumstances, they give nagging doubts to what would otherwise be solid claims on class alone.

The Frenchman hadn’t recovered from a week away at Oak Hill when missing the cut, but probably should have won here last year when eventually third, and his ball-striking doesn’t quite have the same sound at the moment. On the other side, the Dane star again had a chance to prove best last week, but for the fourth time in nine months, failed to go through with his effort after entering Sunday in the final two groups.

If wanting a player to link up all the chosen comp tracks, then Jordan Smith would be the selection, even at 20/1 or thereabouts. However, having been safely in the draw for the weekend after 12 holes of his second round at Bernardus, the 2017 Green Eagle champ completely lost control of his tee-to-green game, dropping nine shots in his last seven holes. The 30-year-old is made for this place, as his two further top-11 finishes indicate, but last week’s effort needs a large bunker of forgiveness and I’ll instead nail my colours (again) to Alexander Bjork, the man that beat Smith in China in 2018.

I was with the Swede last week based on crossover form, and this week he makes similar appeal being able to back up that Asian form with top finishes in Dubai, Abu Dhabi (see Casey) and Crans (Armitage and shock winner of this event Richard McEvoy). Of that sole victory at Topwin, it has to be of interest that former China Open specialist Alex Levy won the last running of the European Open at Bad Griesbach before finishing second and 13th here, whilst impossible-to-read HaoTong Li, the 2016 Topwin champ, was 18th on his only try around the monster that is Green Eagle.

Last week’s top-30 made it 10 cuts in a row for 2023, with some impressive displays through this first half of the year, including top-20 in Dubai, second in Ras and back-to-back fourth placings at both the Soudal and Italian Opens.

The 32-year-old ranks fifth for overall performance over the last 12 weeks comprising 32nd in total driving, 24th for ball-striking and 12th for putting. He is exploiting his excellent tee-to-green game, and now ranking in third for scrambling, remains one of the rare players that can recover well when missing their target – although at 19th for greens-in-regulation, this isn’t that often.

Bjork has made all four cuts here, with his last three finishes in the mid-20s, but is in probably the best form of his life. With doubts surrounding many of the rivals at the top, his constant barraging of the short stuff should see him challenging over the weekend.

Home favourite Yannik Paul has been well backed from a far-too-big early price, and there is a case for making him still value at 30+, but Jorge Campillo needs forgiving for an awful display from the front last weekend, even if that was an outlier to his otherwise excellent run, that includes a victory and top-10 in Italy.

There seem to be an awful lot of doubts about the top lot in the market (save a mere handful) so take a trip downtown and try nabbing a bit of value prices that will pay nicely should they nab a place.

Whilst Gavin Green would seem to be an obvious place to go, he sits in the range between 50/1 and 100/1,  full of untapped talent and players, that have least not had too many chances to put their head in front.

Jordan Smith won on debut here, so it’s not impossible, and whilst Jeong Weon Ko may need another year or two to reach his peak, he is one that appeals as a ‘watch’ for the rest of 2023.

The French-born Korean dominated his home junior scene before taking his time through the Alps and Challenge Tours, eventually settling in during the second half of 2022. From July to September, Ko played 14 times, recording four top five finishes, two further top-10s and a pair of top-20s, those results including a fourth place finish at the Challenge Tour finale.

His rookie season at this level started well with a 30th and fourth place in Africa, and he has since progressed steadily as the DPWT ramped it up a level.

Top-20 finishes in Korea, India and Belgium, where he was in second place at halfway, suggest he should soon be competing on a Sunday, whilst in-between those, a third-round 67 was enough to launch him to inside the top 10 at St. Francis Links.

On the 12-week tracker, Ko ranks 12th with positions inside the top-30 for all the relevant stats.

15th for distance, 25th for greens, and top-10 for par-5s, he has a bit of Green about him but without the question marks. Whilst he hasn’t won on the professional stage, his second to bomber Daniel Hillier at the Swiss Challenge reads nicely, as does his top-15 at the Di-Data in 2021 when surrounded by longer hitters, and he appears to be of the quality that will leave these results behind in time.

Hillier himself can be fancied, especially after last week’s fifth at the Dutch Open, but I’ll go with the man that beat him by a single shot last week in the shape of Deon Germishuys.

The DPWT rookie has already had a season to remember, leading home fellow South African Wilco Nienaber at U.S Open qualifying at Walton Heath at the beginning of May, and securing his ticket to his first major.

Interestingly, two of the other five qualifying spots were won by Alejandro Del Rey and Matthieu Pavon, all four names being some of the longest drivers on the tour.

That may well have been the boost that pushed the 23-year-old to record his best effort on the DPWT so far, his third at the Dutch Open marking another step up from the 15th in Belgium just two weeks previous, and a top-10 in Japan when just behind Macintyre, Paul, Smith and Campillo.

In what is a fledgling career, this event starts just a few days after the anniversary of his first victory on his home Sunshine Tour where he beat some of the country’s longest hitters to the biggest prize for a non co-sanctioned tournament, before nabbing his DPWT card via a 20th place ranking at the end of the Challenge Tour season.

The three mentioned top-15 finishes have all appeared on his card since the beginning of April, and this rapidly-improving player now has last weekend’s finish fresh in the mind, finishing in front of Meronk et al, despite not being able to buy a putt on Sunday.

A lot of what Deon is doing on the course reminds me of compatriot Dean Burmester, who had a terrific record at the Di-Data at Farncourt, something being repeated by the younger man (20th and 7th). Now signed by LIV, Burmy also had a solid record at Albatross and in Italy, where a best of fifth place should have been higher at the bizarre Chervo track, biased towards long-hitters but won by a demon putter instead.

I’m tempted by the names Tom Mckibbin, nowhere near a finished article and keen to attack this course, flusher Dan Bradbury, and bomber Marcus Helligkilde (still not convinced he is absolutely one-hundred percent), but they may only make the top-10/20 bets.

Kalle Samooja should go well in his bid to defend his crown, but I’m taking fellow Finn Tapio Pulkkanen to improve on his 18th here last year with the chance to again make his length count.

Having won both the Nordic League (2015) and the Challenge Tour Order of Merit (2017), the be-hatted one was always going to be a player to look out for and, in truth, it hasn’t really happened.

However, his case lies with the best of his efforts, all of which combine to believe that should organisers stretch this course to over 7500-yards at any point, then he is one of a few that could handle the layout.

Silver and bronze at the Czech Masters, Pulkkanen thrived on the open layout of the Dunhill Links, finishing top-10 twice since 2019.  Add those to a second (Hainan) and 14th in China, top-20 finishes in Dubai and Himmerland, as well as good finishes at the classier BMW at Wentworth and he just needs to show something to make appeal at one of only half-a-dozen tracks that he could be fancied around.

The 33-year-old led in Chervo in 2019 before showing he enjoys Italy with his best-of-the-season 16th at the Marco Simone at the beginning of May, where he should have done better, having been in the top five for all the first three rounds.

By no means one to place maximum faith in, he is similar to the likes of Veerman and Joakim Lagergren in that they suit certain types of tracks, and they are the only ones they could be backed at. This one, Green Eagle, together with Pulkkanen, seems like one of those times.

Recommended Bets:

  • Alexander Bjork 
  • Dean Germishuys 
  • JW Ko 
  • Tapio Pulkkanen 
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