Phil Mickelson says Spieth, McIlroy aren’t ‘remotely close’ to Tiger in his heyday

(ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)

ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images

Big three? Ha, says Phil Mickelson, with a lot of exclamation points coming after "ha," presumably. Tiger Woods’ main rival, with whom he was never exactly chummy off the course, says that no one in the game today can compare to Tiger in his heyday.

Mickelson spoke about the Tiger of old on the premiere episode of Golf.com’s GOLF LIVE:

First, this is a true, wonderful compliment for a man who’s never been known to go out of his way to praise Tiger. This is usually the sort of homily one gives after careers are finished, so for Phil to say this when he has a few good years left is interesting. Although, if you want to read between the lines (and I always do), you can also appreciate the (possible) subtle implication that Tiger will never get back to being himself either. Don’t think the always-shifty Lefty didn’t have that in the back of his mind.

But speaking specifically about the new kids on the block (Jason Day, McIlroy and Spieth being the newly christened kings of golf), Mickelson is complimentary, but definitively dismissive.

That’s an interesting quote because we were one bogey away from Jordan Spieth almost holding the first three majors of 2015. Spieth, of course, won the Masters in record fashion, then backed it up with a win at the U.S. Open. At the British, he went low on moving day and then got to -15 on Sunday after a birdie on No. 16. But then he bogeyed No. 17 to miss out on a playoff by one shot. The obvious difference between Spieth and Tiger is that Tiger actually won four majors in a row, but Spieth was a shot from three in a row, and those happened to be the first three legs of the Grand Slam, something Tiger never really seriously approached.

(Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

On the other hand, there’s a mind-boggling stat that shows just how right Mickelson is about Tiger’s dominance. Last weekend, Spieth, 22, missed the 13th cut of his career in his 79th start. McIlroy, 26, has missed 11 cuts in his 101 events. Tiger, meanwhile, had a total of nine missed cuts in his first 298 events. And even with his 2014 and 2015 woes, he’s just missed 15 cuts in his career. That means Jordan Spieth, the boy wonder and golf’s great new hope, has missed two fewer cuts in his career than the 40-year-old Tiger Woods.

Phil (who has missed 74 cuts in his career) is right. Tiger was once-in-a-generation and if you doubt it, here’s one more stat for you: If any of the big three get halfway to Tiger’s current major total, they’ll be equals with a couple of guys named Arnold Palmer, Sam Snead and Bobby Jones.