The epic mind game Tiger Woods played on Phil Mickelson at the Masters

Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson in the final round of the 2001 Masters.

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Phil Mickelson, during the final round of the 2001 Masters, stood on the tee on the par-5 13th at Augusta National trailing Tiger Woods and David Duval by two. Mickelson hit. A beautiful fade that bled around the corner of the fabled dogleg and into the middle of the fairway. 

Woods, in the final pairing with Mickelson, followed. 

“That’s huge. That’s really big,” announcer Ken Venturi said on the CBS broadcast. “You thought Mickelson was big? Hit it right by it.”

About 30 yards by.

With his 3-wood. To Mickelson’s driver. 

“I could sort of sense that Mickelson was feeling a bit dejected,” Woods’ then-caddie, Steve Williams, recounts in Tiger, a two-part HBO documentary on Woods’ life that debuts at 9 p.m. ET Sunday. “He’s just hit the best drive that he can, and then Tiger’s hit a 3-wood and whipped it by him.

“And then Phil says to Tiger, ‘Do you always hit your 3-wood that long?’

“And Tiger says, ‘Further. Normally further than that.’

“It’s amazing the little games within the game Tiger would play,” Williams added. “That shot just deflated Phil’s ego, and he couldn’t bounce back.”

Indeed. Though both Woods and Mickelson would birdie the hole, Mickelson played the remaining five holes in even par while Woods won by two, becoming the first player in the modern era to hold all four major titles at once.  

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If Mickelson was daunted by the moment, that unease didn’t last long. As Mickelson has often said, Woods, in fact, motivated him to play better.   

In the 37 times Woods and Mickelson have been paired together, Woods has outplayed Mickelson only 18 times to Phil’s 15. (On the other four occasions, they shot the same score). 

And here’s an even more telling stat, courtesy of analytics whiz Justin Ray of the 15th Club: From 2005-2014, Mickelson averaged 1.36 strokes gained per round on the PGA Tour; when grouped with Woods, that number jumped to 2.61.

“He’s one hell of a competitor and it’s always a challenge to try to beat him,” Woods said of Mickelson, in a story published by ESPN last May

Nick Piastowski

Nick Piastowski Editor

Nick Piastowski is a Senior Editor at and Golf Magazine. In his role, he is responsible for editing, writing and developing stories across the golf space. And when he’s not writing about ways to hit the golf ball farther and straighter, the Milwaukee native is probably playing the game, hitting the ball left, right and short, and drinking a cold beer to wash away his score. You can reach out to him about any of these topics — his stories, his game or his beers — at