LA JOLLA, Calif. â¿¿- The pairing of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson (with Adam Scott thrown in to further clog Torrey Pines' pedestrian arteries) might have seemed like a good idea in theory--the two best players in the world, bound by their talent and mutual animus, going head to head in the first two rounds of the U.S. Open, in Mickelson's hometown.
In reality, unless their cabretta leather gloves came off and a free-for-all ensued, what was the point?
There seem to be no defensible ones, while arguments in favor of retiring this experiment are as abundant as bogeys, starting with the fact that they aren't playing against one another, at least until late in the fourth round and at that only if both are in contention.
There was no discernible boon to television, so long as they weren't allowed to play defense while the other was hitting. Every shot either of them hit was going to be aired anyway, whether they were a few feet or several hours apart.
It provided no boost at the gate, inasmuch as the U.S. Open already is a sellout. Instead, it was a catalyst for gallery gridlock that impaired everyone's ability to view unimpeded more than a few shots before the show moved on.
When the Woods-Mickelson group concluded play shortly after noon on Thursday, the first round deflated. Until they teed off in the second round Friday afternoon, the other golf was just filler, or so it seemed.
Geoff Shackelford posted on his golf blog a letter from former USGA executive director Frank Hannigan, who wrote how during his reign the USGA separated the two best players, one going off in the morning, the other in the afternoon, as a means of maintaining interest throughout the day.
Hannigan further wrote that the pairing of Woods and Mickelson was akin to "putting Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand on stage together, each doing their own thing at the same time. The result would be discordant, but the advance hype would be spectacular."
It was just that, a great show that attracted an extraordinary crowd that often had no idea what was happening.