Thursday, February 6, 2003

Mickelson backs off Tiger comment

The Associated Press

Phil Mickelson says he was only trying to compliment Tiger Woods in a magazine interview when he said the world's No. 1 player has inferior equipment.

"I hope that line wasn't taken out of context by some people," Mickelson said in a statement Wednesday. "It was meant nothing more than a positive comment on Tiger's incredible talent."

In an interview with Golf Magazine for its March issue, Mickelson said he and Woods have a better relationship than most people realize. Asked if there were any issues between them, Mickelson said, "Well, maybe one."

"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."

Mickelson plays Titleist equipment. Woods formerly played Titleist, but switched to the Nike Golf ball in 2000, to the driver a year ago at Pebble Beach and to the irons last fall.

The comments didn't sit well with Nike.

"We question Phil Mickelson's judgment for his statement regarding Tiger Woods and his equipment," Nike said in a statement. "It is not only laughable, but completely unsupported by the facts."

Nike pointed out that Woods has had enormous success after each change.

He won four straight majors after changing to the golf ball; he became the first player in 30 years to win the Masters and U.S. Open in the same year after changing to the driver; and he won a World Golf Championship in Ireland the week he switched to the irons.

"Tiger Woods is the most demanding, discerning athlete we work with at Nike," the company said. "He has said repeatedly that he will not switch equipment unless the product is better and will help him win."

T.R. Reinman of Gaylord Sports, who was at the interview, said Mickelson was flying when he talked about hitting past Woods.

"As I've said many times, I have great respect for Tiger," Mickelson said. "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 ... but my remark was absolutely not intended as a knock on any other manufacturer."

Woods has not seen Mickelson since they played together in the third round of the Target World Challenge on Dec. 7. Both are expected to play next week at the Buick Invitational in San Diego.

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