Mickelson: 'He hates that I can fly it past him now'

Originally Published: February 5, 2003
ESPN.com news services

Whatever warm and fuzzy feelings existed between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson might not be around when Woods returns to the PGA Tour.

In an interview with Golf Magazine, Mickelson said he and Woods get along better than people believe and they don't have any issues.

''Well, maybe one,'' Mickelson said. ''He hates that I can fly it past him now. He has a faster swing speed than I do, but he has inferior equipment. Tiger is the only player who is good enough to overcome the equipment he's stuck with.''

With a new driver and ball from Titleist, Mickelson is hitting the ball longer than ever. However, according to the Orlando Sentinel, Mickelson's comments infuriated Nike, which provides Woods with his ball, driver and irons. Mickelson's assertion that Woods' "inferior" equipment is holding him back and talent is the only thing keeping him competitive gave the folks at Nike, as one official put it, "locker-room bulletin-board material."

"I question his motives for saying what he did," Bob Wood, the president of Nike golf, told the Sentinel on Tuesday. "I really question the wisdom of Phil Mickelson calling Tiger Woods out.

"This is a guy who has never beaten Tiger in any significant tournament, and this is what he believes, what he says? That's a laughable assertion."

However, through a news release, Mickelson said Wednesday that he hopes what he said wasn't taken out of context by some people. "It was meant as nothing more than a positive comment on Tiger's incredible talent," Mickelson said.

"As I've said many times, I have great respect for Tiger," Mickelson continued. "I also have respect for any manufacturer, particularly those that can put their clubs in the hands of the world's best players. I am thrilled with my Titleist equipment and proud to represent the company but my remark was absolutely not intended as a knock on any other manufacturer."

Woods has won 34 times, including eight majors, since he turned pro, compared with 12 victories and no majors for Mickelson in the same period.

Nike, which began manufacturing clubs last year, has invested millions venturing into the golf business. Woods, a Nike endorser since joining the PGA Tour in 1996, made the switch from Titleist clubs to a Nike driver and irons last year.

"The success we've had in the first year in this business is unprecedented," Wood said. "To say this comes as a surprise to us is a tremendous understatement."

Woods has won four majors with the Nike ball, won two more after switching to the Nike driver and set a scoring record in his first event using the company's irons.

Still, the new Titleist 983 Series driver and ProV1x ball have been all the rage on tour this year, thanks in part to Ernie Els' early-season success in Hawaii.

Mickelson began using the equipment after the Tour Championship last year, and he has embarked on a conditioning program to get more strength and speed into his swing, allowing the equipment to work wonders.

''This new x-ball, if I just swing at it regular speed, I don't get much out of it,'' Mickelson said. ''But when I go after it, I get a ton out of it. The harder I can hit the ball now, we have golf balls made for that swing.''

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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