Doc's Morning Line: I never thought I'd see Tiger Woods more beloved than Phil Mickelson

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If someone had told me 20 years ago – heck, 20 weeks ago – that at the end of their careers, Tiger Woods would be far more popular than Phil Mickelson, I’d have scanned his brain for X-Outs.

I mean “popular’’ in the approachable, Everyman sense of the word. Woods’ popularity as a player is unquestioned. But Phil always won the people’s choice award. “Who’d you rather play 19 holes with?’’

Phil.

There were Phil fans and there were Tiger fans and the line was distinct. You were one or the other and your choice said something about who you were.

Tiger’s game was as cold and calculating as his persona. Phil’s game was occasionally reckless and dumb, but never dull. Kinda like Phil himself. At the 2002 US Open at Bethpage, I watched as New Yorkers sang Happy Birthday to Phil, as he strode up the 18th fairway. They’d never do that for Tiger. They wouldn’t dare.

At the Open at Pinehurst in 1999, Phil endeared himself to everyone by vowing to leave the tournament if his wife Amy, fully pregnant, went into labor. Then last year, Mickelson had everyone screaming his name when he pulled off the feelgood win at the PGA Championship at age 51.

Now, the PGA is here and Phil is not. He’s in self-imposed exile. The writer Alan Shipnuck, whose bio of Phil is out this week, wrote this: “Mickelson’s future was unlimited, as long as he could avoid saying something stupid.”

Phil couldn’t. His career – indeed, a lifetime of cultivating an image that now seems only somewhat genuine – is on the rocks because he said something stupid. Long story short, Mickelson shrugged off the murder of a journalist by Saudis, because he saw a way to make more money playing golf. This from a guy who has made $87 mil playing golf on the PGA Tour.

Paraphrasing, Phil told Alan Shipnuck, “Yeah, these Saudis are bad people, but this is a unique opportunity for me make more money.’’ The Saudis wanted to woo PGA Tour-ists with their new world tour. Greg Norman is their point man. Mickelson was enthusiastic in his support.

And just like that, Everyman Phil lost the high ground.

Not surprisingly, Woods was there to throw dirt on Mickelson’s legacy. Someone asked Tiger Tuesday his opinion on Mickelson’s stance re the Saudi tour. “I believe in legacies. I believe in major championships. I believe in big events, comparisons to historical figures of the past,” Woods said.

“There's plenty of money out here,” he said. “The tour is growing.’’

Logical, loyal, rational, true. And very popular.

Now, Woods is seen as the more honorable of the two, the hero risen from the ashes of his bad decisions. Phil’s bad decisions have landed him in purgatory.

Who’d have ever thought that?

Shipnuck’s book suggests that Mickelson decided long ago to play the nice guy, once he saw Tiger’s coldness to his adoring public. Calculating? Maybe. Mickelson has spread a lot of generosity to a lot of people, mostly privately. After former NFL lineman Conrad Dobler’s wife Joy became a quadriplegic after falling from a hammock, Mickelson paid four years of college tuition for Dobler’s daughter, Holli.

From ESPN.com in 2007:

“Our daughter is forever grateful to Phil," Joy said. "I'll tell you how involved he is. Since he made his first donation of $20,000, he's made sure to include a cost-of-living increase each year. This year, his check was for $22,000. Next year, he's promised $24,000. If there's anything he's missing in his life, it's a set of wings. He's an angel. And if I can when I see him for the first time, I'm going to go up and give him a big hug. I have therapy five hours a day, seven days a week. I'm getting there. Parts of me that didn't move after the accident are moving again, sensations I didn't feel, I feel. I don't plan on being in this wheelchair forever."

The Doblers had never met Mickelson.

At the Memorial tournament in ’07, I asked Mickelson to talk about his generosity. He politely declined. Later, I learned he’d invited the Dobler family to the Memorial that year.

What possessed fill to get himself involved with the Saudis? Why on earth would he rationalize it the way he did?

What do you think of the whole sad affair?

Now, then. . .

BENGALS HONOR-RING NOMINEES. . . You can vote for two:

Willie Anderson, Jim Breech, James Brooks, Cris Collinsworth, Isaac Curtis, Corey Dillon, Boomer Esiason, David Fulcher, Chad Johnson, Tim Krumrie. Dave Lapham, Max Montoya, Lemar Parrish, Bob Trumpy, Reggie Williams.

I go Willie Anderson and Isaac Curtis, by a nose over Lemar Parrish. Anderson is the 2nd-best lineman the Bengals have ever had. Curtis was a three-time, 2nd-team All Pro and spent all 12 of his pro seasons with the Men. Parrish was a three-time, first-team All Pro, but played only eight of his 13 seasons with the Men.

Regardless, almost everyone on that list will make the Ring sooner or later.

REDS GAINING ON BUCS. . . Gotta love the Connor Overton story. Man’s 28, didn’t debut in the bigs until last year. Went to college for two years, at legendary baseball powerhouse Old Dominion, where he went a combined 3-7, mostly as a reliever.

Overton’s best year was ’16. . . in Double-A, when he was 5-1, 1.96 for Sioux City.

Late bloomer, evidently.

He looked like Wade Miley last night in Cleveland. There is never anything wrong with working quickly and throwing strikes. Letting your defense do the heavy lifting. With the W and Pittsburgh’s L, the Club is only five games out of 4th place!

Keep it going, men.

AND NOW. . .

FunMaster David is wine-ing this weekend.

It was a great weekend in Newport at Smoke on the River BBQ Fest. Hopefully you saw the Funmaster on TV throughout the week. Unfortunately, you'll probably have to see my face out and about all summer. My sincerest condolences. Let's see what's going on in the area this week.

Festival season marches on this week with the Cincinnati International Wine Festival at Duke Energy Center this Friday (one session) and Saturday (two sessions). Tickets, which are available on bigtickets.com, include unlimited tastings, food, a one-year subscription to Cincinnati Magazine, and an opportunity to bid on auction items. Half the proceeds of ticket sales go directly to 30+ charities, so in addition to expanding your palate, you will also be supporting several good causes in the area.

Elsewhere, local bands are out and about in force this week. The Michelle Robinson Band will be at Big Bull’s Roadhouse in Hamilton on Friday at 9pm, while 3 Day Rule is set to rock Belterra Park Friday at 8. On Saturday, Lost Celts starts the party with a noon performance at the OTR Stillhouse, The Amador Sisters will play Station BBQ at 6pm, and Swan closes out the night with a 9:30pm show at Dixie Station Elsmere.

If you have an event you'd like to submit, please email davidcincyevents@gmail.com.

TUNE O' THE DAY. . . What a glorious week of weather we just had. Raging pollen-itis and mold-o-rama was a small price to pay. Made me think of these guys.

This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: PGA Championship: Tiger Woods now more beloved than Phil Mickelson