Jim Nantz: ‘Everybody Makes The Sport About Tiger’

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(Credit: Warren Little/Getty Images)

(Credit: Warren Little/Getty Images)

The drama continues.

After announcing that he would play in the PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville this week, Tiger Woods was given a Thursday tee time with Phil Mickelson and Padraig Harrington.

Harrington is an accomplished player, but he’ll be massively overshadowed by the Woods/Mickelson rivalry.

“I know both of these guys really well,” CBS Sports lead play-by-play announcer Jim Nantz said on The Morning Show. “The relationship, you can go back to that Ryder Cup a long time ago, and I wouldn’t read anything into that. These guys, there’s a tremendous respect for (each other). I’m not going to give you the Disney version of this. Phil definitely loves the chance to play with Tiger because he’s had the better end of it when he’s been paired with Tiger for the last six or seven years. There is no concern on his part whether Tiger was going to play. I’m sure he actually loved for Tiger to play. I think everyone feels like the event means a little bit more when Tiger’s in the field. And in Phil’s particular case, matched up against him in recent years, he’s had the better end of it, so I think he relishes the chance.”

Let’s not forget what happened at Pebble Beach in 2012. Mickelson and Woods were paired for the final round; Mickelson shot a 64, and Woods shot a 75.

“They’ve played many times together, and you could give me a lot of examples where Tiger had the better end of it, particularly early in Tiger’s career,” Nantz said. “But most recently, Phil has really pounced on the opportunity when he’s played with Tiger. And don’t forget, his coach, Butch Harmon, was Tiger’s coach when he first came out here. So Phil’s got a pretty good understanding of what it’s like to play with Tiger. He’s got all the inside information from Butch about how that goes and what Tiger likes to talk about.”

“(But between Tiger and Phil), there is a tremendous respect there,” Nantz continued. “I think they both will play better than we might expect going into this high drama that’s leading into the PGA.”

Better than we might expect is one thing; actually winning the tournament – or at least being near the leader board Sunday – is another thing altogether. In fact, Woods might be limited less by his health and more by the fact that he hasn’t been able to play or practice that much since his March surgery. Heck, he lost to Rory McIlroy by 23 strokes at the Open Championship last month.

And yet, all anybody seems to care about is Tiger.

“Am I caught up in it?” Nantz asked, referring to all the drama surrounding Woods. “I’m caught up in it because it’s all anybody ever asks me about. I feel so sorry for Rory McIlroy because . . . everybody makes the sport about Tiger. Rory McIlroy is the dominant player in the game. He’s coming off two breathtaking performances. This guy’s won three majors in the last three years and two months. Tiger hasn’t won one in (six) years, and everybody just wants to talk about Tiger. And here’s Rory McIlroy going for his third win in four weeks against all the best players in the world, and our first two questions today are about Tiger. I’m not blaming you guys. This is universal. It’s a feeding frenzy.”

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