I'm a Phil guy. Always have been. I also like Tiger but if you were to ask who I like more between the two, Phil gets my vote by a wide margin (though Freddy Couples would blow both of them out of the water). So maybe I'm a little biased but I honestly don't understand why people root for Tiger over Phil, and why it's not very close.
Listen, there are a couple things I do understand. I understand why the corporations like Tiger more than Phil. Tiger outsells Phil like Diet Coke outsells fucking Tab. It's not even close. So Tiger is on TV more and his off-course persona has been cautiously crafted for the sole purpose that the general public will continue to like him. I get that. I also get that Tiger is better than Phil and is a once-in-a-lifetime American Figure, let alone a superior sports star who is worthy of praise if not worship by people who follow the sport. And because of that, Tiger's popularity extends beyond the scope of general golf fans in a way that Phil's image does not. I get ALL of that. And maybe that's enough to explain why Tiger is loved and Phil is not. But it doesn't explain why Phil is roundly disliked, or why Tiger is completely impervious to criticism.
One of the biggest criticism's about Phil's game is that he ALWAYS goes for it. He never lays up. He never aims for the fat part of the green whether he's 3 up, 3 down, or heads up. Phil always thinks he can hit a flop to 3 inches whether he's standing in 2 feet of gnarled shit, he's behind an oak tree or off a cart path. Phil never punches out, he never clubs down and he is never afraid of any shot. I think it's a fair criticism of his game, especially considering what happened at Winged Foot last year (a tournament cut that Tiger missed, btw). But shouldn't his reckless playing style serve as a positive? Isn't this just the kind of Faverian "fuck it, I'm going for it" attitude that America loves?
I'm not suggesting that Tiger ever lays up, backs down or doesn't go at every pin (though he did stop hitting his driver in the British Open in 2006). But when Tiger does it it's aggressive and with Phil it's risky and unnecessary. That probably has to do with the fact that Tiger picks his moments to attack the flag or fairway while Phil is always aiming at the flag no matter what the situation. Sure it has led to some heart-wrenching moments for Phil on the course, but it's also something I want "my guy" to do.
The second reason people dislike Phil is because he is deemed a phony. He smiles at the cameras and the galleries, he signs endless of hours of autographs but for someone reason it is portrayed as all for show. people believe that Phil actually hates you and me and is acting like a good dad purely for endorsements. Apparently people believe that at home he is a fat lazy drunk who hates his kids and constantly frowns. The reason they believe this is because he doesn't hang out with a ton of PGA players during non-PGA playing days. He is also sometimes a little overly honest with the media and says things that people don't like or skips tournaments to hang with his family while at the same time offering a not-so-subtle dig at PGA Commissioner Tim Finchem. He doesn't toe the line. I wouldn't call him a rebel but he certainly plays by his own rules. We usually like guys like Phil. Guys like Agassi and Deion and Pedro and Pete Weber. So why the hell do we find that quality so loathsome in Phil's case? It doesn't make sense to me.
And lastly, in American we LOVE underdogs. We loved Appalachian State and Boise State. We love any team that beats the Yankees or the Patriots or Spurs and we love the tough luck guy who plays second fiddle to the superstar. We usually pull for that guy to break though. It gets boring rooting for the best team or player all the time. But we don't have that same connection with Phil.
Now, I wouldn't necessarily call Phil and underdog in the same way I'd call Appalachian State an underdog, but any player in the PGA is an underdog in any tournament that Tiger enters. Even Phil. So why wouldn't you pull for him to knock off the top guy? Normally that's exactly what we want to see. Just not with Phil.
I don't want to get redundant here but if you were to take away this weird belief that Phil thinks he's better than us and you just laid out what Phil stands for as a golf personality: Long hitter, balls the size of ostrich eggs, most creative shot maker on tour, gut-wrenching losses, good looking, always smiling, signing autographs, never backs down on the course or off and always chasing the most immortal golfer in the sports' history. Any other time, that equation adds up to likability. But not in Phil's case. It just doesn't make any sense.