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Is Age Finally Catching up to Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson?

Tiger Woods is nine strokes in back of the leader in the Farmers Insurance Open, and Phil Mickelson was forced to withdraw with a tight back.

Is Age Finally Catching up to Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson?
Tiger Woods barely made the cut at the Farmers Insurance Open. Photo courtesy Keith Allison via Creative Commons license.

Eventually, Father Time catches up with everyone at some point. While many do everything they can to put that day off, time eventually takes its toll.

For PGA stars Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, one has to wonder if that day is on the horizon.

Making his first start of the 2014 PGA season, Woods, the defending champion at the Farmers Insurance Open, was nine strokes behind leader Jordan Spieth following the second round on Friday.

Woods fared a bit better on Friday, shooting a second-round 71 after opening with an even-par round of 72 on Thursday. Woods played alongside tournament leader Spieth, who bested Woods by eight shots with a blistering 63.

Speith, the 20-year-old PGA Rookie of the Year, put together a flawless round with nine birdies and no bogies. Six of his birdie putts were from within four feet, and his playing partner was duly impressed.

''The kid's got talent,'' Woods said. ''He hits it a long way, phenomenal putter. He made a boat load of putts today from the 10- to 20-foot range, and on poa greens, that's not easy to do. He was pouring them in there. He had speed to them, too. That's what you have to do to putt on poa.

''He putted with a lot of confidence.''

Woods can certainly feel empathy for Spieth’s efforts. At 20 years of age, Spieth is rapidly becoming a star on tour, a feat accomplished by Woods as well back in the mid-1990s.

But now, at 38 years of age, Woods’ game has changed quite a bit from those free-swinging days when he seemed invincible. It’s now become a matter of dealing with swing changes and an erratic driver.

Once the king of par 5s, Woods has struggled on the longer holes at Torrey Pines Country Club, Woods has registered seven pars and one bogey thus far in two rounds at the Farmers Insurance Classic.

That’s a far cry from last year when Woods was nine-under on the par 5s on his way to winning his seventh Farmers Insurance Open title. He bogeyed the par-5 18th hole on Friday.

Woods believes it’s more a matter of slight tinkering early in the season to get his game back in shape.

"I wouldn't say it's rusty, just a fraction off,'' he said. "At this level and golf courses like this it doesn't take much.''

For Mickelson, it’s more about ongoing health issues. He felt his back “lock up” at some point in the first round on Thursday, and dealt with ongoing pain throughout the second round. He withdrew after shooting a second-round 73. Mickelson said he’d rather not take the risk of altering his swing to compensate for his back issues and develop bad habits.

Mickelson has dealt with numerous back issues in the past, and now plays with psoriatic arthritis, a condition that can cause pain and stiffness in one or more joints. While he won his fifth major professional title last year at the British Open, injuries will continue to be a concern for Michelson, who turns 44 on June 16.

Two of the greatest golfers of this generation are both fighting off various ailments that are exacerbated by age. Woods has fought off various knee injuries in recent years as well.

Next week, Mickelson hopes to defend his Waste Management Phoenix Open title, where he is considered a legend. An Arizona State graduate, the decibel level rises whenever Mickelson strides to the famous 16th tee at  Tournament Players Club (TPC) of Scottsdale, Arizona. For now, however, he can only hope that he’s able to compete at all. And for Woods, it’s about fighting off Father Time and recapturing a swing that was undeniably the best in golf for well over a decade. 

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