Phil Mickelson lauds ‘remarkable’ Tiger Woods ahead of Players Championship showdown

Tiger Woods did not hesitate in accepting long-time arch rival Phil Mickelson throwing down the gauntlet. (AFP)
Updated 09 May 2018
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Phil Mickelson lauds ‘remarkable’ Tiger Woods ahead of Players Championship showdown

  • Paired together for the first time since second round of the 2014 PGA Championship
  • 'It was the most remarkable golf in the history of the game'

PONTE VERDE BEACH, US: Tiger Woods did not hesitate in accepting long-time arch rival Phil Mickelson throwing down the gauntlet in a “high stake winner-take-all” showdown call at this week’s US PGA Players Championship.
Woods, a 14-time major champion, and Mickelson, a five-time major winner, are paired along with fellow American Rickie Fowler in the opening two rounds of this week’s event at TPC Sawgrass.
It marks the first time they have been paired together since the second round of the 2014 PGA Championship, when Woods shot 74 and Mickelson 67.
Woods and Mickelson have found themselves grouped together on 32 occasions. Mickelson has shot a lower round 15 times, Woods 14 times and they have matched scores on three occasions.
Mickelson spoke Tuesday of his wish that he and Woods simply “bypass the ancillary stuff” at the Players in favor of a head-to-head matchup.
“I look at the cover of the newspaper and the pairing is on there and the excitement that has been going on around here, it gets me thinking, why don’t we just bypass all the ancillary stuff of a tournament and just go head-to-head and just have kind of a high stake winner-take-all match,” Mickelson said with a smile.
“Now, I don’t know if he wants a piece of me,” the left-hander added with a grin. “But I just think it would be something that would be really fun for us to do, and I think there would be a lot of interest in it if we just went straight to the final round.”
Woods responded to Mickelson, declaring with a smile of his own: “I’m definitely not against that and we’ll play for whatever makes him uncomfortable.”
Woods, 42, also spoke of his admiration for Mickelson and particularly his attention when Woods was away for most of the past two years dealing with his nagging back injuries.
“Phil and I have always had great banter and we always give each other needle but our relationship certainly has gotten a lot closer with me being a vice-captain on the last couple of (Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup) teams,” Woods said.
“We’ve had very lengthy conversations about things, and not just about pairings, but things in general.
“And when I was trying to deal with a nerve in my back, and trying to come back and trying to play, I wasn’t very good. He always texted me some encouraging words.”
Mickelson singled out Woods as the most “remarkable” golfer in the history of game and this despite Jack Nicklaus winning a record 18 majors.
“I don’t think anybody today who wasn’t there who witnessed Tiger in the early 2000s, or I don’t think anybody before will see that level of play again,” Mickelson said.
“It was the most remarkable golf in the history of the game and I think it’s unrepeatable. It was that good.
“I go back to 2000 and the US Open and I look at his performance as being the greatest golf I’ve ever witnessed and has ever been played.”
Woods won that US Open at Pebble Beach by 15 strokes and the record-shattering romp launched a run forever known as the “Tiger Slam” in which he also captured the 2000 British Open, becoming at 24 the youngest player to complete a career Grand Slam, the 2000 PGA Championship and 2001 Masters to hold all four major titles at once.
“We’ve always had a mutual respect over the years, and I’ve always appreciated what he’s done for the game of golf,” Mickelson said. “Fifteen years ago, my record against him sucked, and now it’s OK. I’m doing better as time has gone on.”


Interview: Turkish NBA star Enes Kanter on standing up to ‘ruthless’ Erdogan

Updated 23 May 2019
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Interview: Turkish NBA star Enes Kanter on standing up to ‘ruthless’ Erdogan

  • ‘I have an obligation to speak against atrocities,’ basketball star tells Arab News
  • ‘Whatever I am going through in my personal life doesn’t impact my performance on court’

CHICAGO: NBA superstar Enes Kanter says he loves his homeland Turkey as much as he loves professional basketball. 

Yet Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has continuously attacked Kanter, who plays for the Portland Trail Blazers.

Erdogan has arrested Kanter’s father, and bullied his family after accusing the basketball player of being part of the Hizmet movement of exiled Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, who the president asserts was behind a failed coup attempt in 2016.

Two years ago this week, Erdogan demanded that Kanter be arrested, and fears of violence from the Turkish state have gotten so bad that the FBI installed a panic button to help protect the player.

Kanter said he will continue to play professional basketball, and will not be silent about the Turkish government’s repression.

“His (Erdogan’s) regime’s and his hostility to me began in 2013 when I first start criticizing (the) government on unjust, unfair and illegal closures of college preparatory centers linked to businesspeople in the Hizmet movement,” Kanter said.

 “This closure pretty much became the first public clash between the Erdogan regime and the Hizmet movement,” he added.

“It was obvious that there was something that Erdogan doesn’t like about the Hizmet movement. Up until the closures of college preparatory centers, no one knew about that,” Kanter said.

“The way Erdogan handled this relationship was brutal, ruthless, unjust and unfair. I can’t stand for any of these, so I stood up against this tyranny and started criticizing. Neither Erdogan stopped his approach nor I, and we’ve kept clashing since then.”

Kanter said he will continue to play professional basketball, and will not be silent about the Turkish government’s repression. (AFP)

Kanter played for the Turkish national team at EuroBasket 2011 in Lithuania, and for the Turkish U18 national team in 2009.

He led Turkey to the bronze medal at the European Championships in France, and was named Best Player and Best Center at the 2009 European Championships by Eurobasket.com. 

Kanter signed with the Utah Jazz in 2011, the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2015, the New York Knicks in 2017, and the Portland Trail Blazers in February this year.

The Trail Blazers lost the Western Division Playoffs, the first step to the NBA Championships, to California’s Golden State Warriors in the final game on Monday.

Erdogan’s threats have placed enormous pressure on Kanter, but he insists it has not impacted his performance or his commitment to help the people of Turkey.

“I’m a successful professional athlete, and whatever I’m going through in my private life would never impact my performance on court,” he said.

“They’re two different worlds for me … I’ve known nothing else but basketball … since I was 13, so I guess it’s pretty important,” he added.

“I see basketball and my platform as a way to teach the younger generation how to be successful and hopeful for the future,” Kanter said.

“Once you’re a successful professional athlete, younger generations see you as a role model, so … I’m trying to do my best to set my life as a role model to them,” he added.

“I believe I have an obligation as a human being to speak up against any atrocities. I believe that as a human being I should be standing for human rights, democracy and freedom of speech … Me being a celebrity makes it easier for people to hear, see and experience what I believe.”

I believe I have an obligation as a human being to speak up against any atrocities.

Enes Kanter, Portland Trail Blazers center

On Erdogan, Kanter does not mince words. “He’s a dictator by definition. He silences media, destroys opposition, demonizes his critics … so all these make him a dictator,” Kanter said.

“Turkey deserves a leader who’s open minded, democratic, progressive, intelligent, modest and forward thinking, a leader who embraces everybody in the community regardless of their political choices.”

The harassment from Erdogan has put Kanter’s family at risk too. “I can’t say they’re safe when my dad lost his job and got jailed based on terrorism charges because I’m his son,” Kanter said. “These allegations are baseless and ridiculous, so how could I feel they’re safe?”

He said he respects Gulen and the Hizmet movement, rejecting Erdogan’s claims against them.

“I’m so close to Mr. Fethullah Gulen in terms of his life philosophy and teachings. I admire his way of extracting an individual’s inner potential … in order to be a better person in his or her community,” Kanter said.

“Erdogan should know that he’ll be brought to justice one day and pay for his mistakes. First, he should stop all his unjust, inhumane acts against the people of Turkey. Second, he should start making everybody’s life better in Turkey.”

Before moving to the US in 2009 to attend college in California, Kanter was a star basketball player in Turkey’s premier leagues.

He said despite playing for the NBA in the US, he still sees himself as a champion for Turkey and its people.

“I was Turkey’s best basketball player, and I’m still Turkey’s best basketball player. The only difference is that I’m now representing my country in the US. I left Turkey for a better opportunity in my career, to play in the NBA,” he added.

“I think everyone in society has an obligation to speak out on issues of human rights and democracy, and to stand tall against atrocities, inhumane practices and dictatorships,” Kanter said.

Celebrities like himself “have a bigger opportunity to make a difference and to raise awareness on such issues because of our platforms,” he added.

Erdogan has continuously attacked Kanter, who plays for the Portland Trail Blazers. (AFP)