Leading Phil Mickelson Taunts Tiger Woods after Rd. 2 of 2009 WGC-CA

Confidence in the driver we all know sets up confidence and performance in other aspects of our game such as iron play and the short game.

Mickelson Tiger 2009 WGC CA Rd 2Recently, Phil made an instructional video on the short game, and doing so has improved his short game, too. Kind of like when we get our old notes out from the driving range and actually read them to discover a few tips that worked magic for us in the past.

“Simplifying my techniques and to articulate and translate it so everybody can do it has forced me to simplify my own game; and consequently, I’ve never chipped or hit bunker shots as well.”

Being 13-under par the after two rounds, Lefty is looking around for some competition over the weekend in this World Golf Championship. Tiger Woods is 10 strokes back. There is no neck-to-neck battle at this point.

Mickelson’s verbal taunting would indicate he is looking for an interaction with Tiger to avenge a defeat in 2005. “It kind of sucks. I hope he comes out tomorrow and plays a great round and makes a move. I would love to get back from ’05. I came close in ’05 and got beat and I would love the opportunity to play head-to-head.”

The confident 35-time winner on tour including three majors is looking ahead to the Masters which is only four weeks away.

“I can’t be any more excited. As well as I’m driving it, to be hitting it as high and as far as I’m hitting it, with my short game being as good as it’s ever been, I can’t wait for Augusta to get here.”

Who is competing with Mickelson this week?

Nick Watney followed up a Thursday 66 with a Friday 67 to secure second place, alone, at 11-under. The 27-year-old golfer from Fresno State won the Buick Invitational at Torrey Pines earlier this year for his first tour victory.

“I feel pretty comfortable on this golf course and I’m playing very well and I’m putting well to start. So pleased with the first two rounds, and as far as tomorrow goes, very excited to play with Phil, and I’m looking forward to it.”

Watney credits the coach he shares with Mickelson and an improvement in his putting for his rise on tour this year.

“I would say the biggest difference would be putting, for sure. I hit the ball fairly well last year, but just my putting was really—really let my down. So I worked real hard in the offseason with my coach, Butch Harmon, and it’s really been paying off so far this year.”

He does a good job of, he sees—he has five students here. So he sees us all, and I don’t think anybody feels slighted or anything. Butch’s knowledge of the game is incredible.”

Can the lesser known guy in Butch’s camp knock off the marquee guy on the WGC-CA stage?

Maybe grizzled tour veteran, Ryder Cup hero, and winner of 13 tour events including the 2009 FBR Open Kenny Perry can put up a fight for Phil this weekend. He shot 64 on Friday by making better club selections on tee shots to suit the monster at Doral.

“Today I played shorter, shorter clubs off the tee just through the doglegs. I didn’t try to bomb it over to the corners like I did yesterday, and it paid off. I hit more fairways and had more opportunities at birdies.”

Perry is tied for third place, only three shots back with Northern Ireland’s up-and-coming golfing star Rory McIlroy who shot 66 Friday to go with Thursday’s 68. How fast has he risen in the world of golf? “Only eight months ago I was 200th in the world.”

Does he find it overwhelming? “No, it’s what I always wanted to do. I always expected to get to this point but I never thought I would do it so quickly.” At only 19 years of age this kid has game and could very well win this golf tournament come Sunday afternoon.

The threesome tied for fifth place only four shots back includes first round co-leader Prayad Marksaeng (Thailand), local favorite Camillo Villegas (Colombia), and veteran Rod Pampling (Australia).

Like so many American golfers of a bygone era, Prayad is the rags-to-riches story of the Asian Tour.

“I came from a poor family and so many members are in my family, so I had to work and make money for survival. I worked when I was young and worked many kind of work, like bicycle and like a taxi and selling food at a railway station. I was a caddie and a boxer.”

Marksaeng did what it took to find his passion and excel at it. Best of all he realizes the impact golf can have on one’s life. “I never thought that I would come up here this day. I thought I would only be able to play the Asian Tour, but now I can come up at this stage. Golf changed my life.”

Camillo is careful to not mix pleasure and popularity with business.

“I enjoy the support. It motivates me to stay focused, but at the same time, you’ve got to give yourself a little slap in the face and remind yourself that you’re there to play golf. But at the end of the day it’s business. You have to have your targets, commit to the shots and pull the trigger.”

Alvaro Quiros (Spain) also shot 64, the low round of the tournament, and heads a group of seven golfers five strokes back but still in contention with 36 holes to play: recent two-time winner Dustin Johnson; 2003 U.S. Open champion Jim Furyk; 2008 British Open runner-up Ian Poulter (England); the Swede who kept his clothes on Soren Kjeldsen; first round co-leader Jeev M. Singh (India); and South African newcomer Louis Oosthuizen.

The other first round co-leader Retief Goosen shot 76 falling into a tie for 35th with Tiger Woods.

Taunting a tiger may not be the wisest thing to do. This one is well-rested, improving, and will be pouncing soon. “Today felt a lot better than it did yesterday and yesterday felt a lot better than it did in Tucson. I’m starting to get a feel for being in that environment again, and it’s starting to feel better and better.”

Realistically can the six-time winner of this event come back over the weekend and win? “Hopefully tomorrow I can shoot a good round and at least give myself somewhat of a chance going into Sunday. I need to play well and I need to have help.”

Wouldn’t it be ironic if Phil’s taunting helped Tiger comeback?