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Tiger's mind is obviously not in the game

Have Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson ever been further apart?

If what happened at the Masters three weeks ago didn't bring the differences in their lives into sharp enough focus, what has happened at Quail Hollow should have. They are worlds apart right now.

Mickelson is on an emotional and professional high. That doesn't diminish the reality of what his family is facing with his wife, Amy, and mother, Mary, both battling breast cancer. That is at the center of Mickelson's life, but he has worked hard - and understandably - to keep that out of the public view.

As a golfer, Mickelson just won the Masters and an outpouring of emotional goodwill. He is beloved in a way Woods never has been. It's always been a matter of personalities where they're concerned, but now it has been magnified.

Mickelson was sick when he arrived in Charlotte, but he's still played himself into contention and he's talking like a man who thinks he's going to win.

Woods, meanwhile, looked like a lost soul at Quail Hollow. We can only imagine what's going on in his head these days, given the fallout from his highly publicized extramarital affairs. I once asked him what it would sound like if we could go inside his head on the course. He answered, "It's quiet."

It can't be quiet right now.

His game is a ragged mess. He couldn't figure out on Thursday which way his shots were going to fly, then on Friday his normally reliable short game betrayed him. He chipped it across the green at No. 7 and almost into a creek. Seven holes later, Woods hit a flop shot across the green and into a pond. One hole later, he four-putted.

What we saw was proof you can't play if your head isn't in the game.

Maybe what we saw Thursday and especially Friday was the culmination of all the pressure that has built up on Woods over these past few months. The result was a 79 that could have been worse and a weekend at home.

Woods joked he'll spend his off time watching the tournament "to see how it's done."

He might turn the television on but not to watch golf.

For more than a decade, Woods and Mickelson have been pitted as rivals. For much of the time, it's been a contrived rivalry, built more on the differences in their styles and personalities than on their on-course duels.

Woods lapped the field long ago in terms of golf. Mickelson, though, has narrowed the gap and, depending on how the next two weeks play out, he could replace Woods as the No. 1 player in the world. He already owns the hearts, now more than ever.

Before the final round of the Masters, Woods and Mickelson had lunch together in the champions locker room, then warmed up beside each other on the range. They were back to back.

They were looking in different directions.