Woods, Mickelson paired at Players Championship

May JohnsonMay 09, 2018

Woods fired a 3-over 74 during Sunday's final round of the Wells Fargo Championship. Not at the biggest non-major of the year, and particularly not playing alongside Rickie Fowler and Phil Mickelson.

The last time Woods and Mickelson were in the same group was the first two rounds of the 2014 PGA Championship, where the PGA of America determines the groupings.

The long-time rivals, who have been paired together 32 times over 21 PGA stroke-play events, are seldom paired together, in part to spread more popular players across different tee times and areas of the course during tournaments.

"Fifteen years ago my record against him sucked, and now it's OK".

Mainly because of Woods, Mickelson has never been PGA Tour player of the year, has never been No. 1 in the world and has never won the money title.

"I had no idea where the ball was going today; especially off the tee", Day said afterwards.

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Matt Kuchar once told a story about how Mickelson would be dishing out his best material in the team room at the Ryder Cup, and if he ever didn't have a comeback, he would simply reveal how many majors he has won to shut up the room - but not without surveying his audience.

But if Mickelson seemed a tad tongue-in-cheek regarding the big show, it likely had something to do with his long and complicated history with Woods.

"I'm very pleased with the way I'm swinging", he said.

"You know, when I was trying to deal with the nerve in my back and trying to come back and trying to play and I wasn't very good", Woods said.

Of course, if Woods gets in contention on the weekend, context and gratitude and thoughtfulness will all go out the window. It will be the first time since 2001 that Mickelson and Woods have been paired together at the Players, which begins Thursday at TPC Sawgrass. Although Woods' accomplishments are the stuff of legend, he and Mickelson crossed paths rarely in those prime years. That's how it always is now with Woods, who appears to care more and more about answering questions earnestly, knowing the gravity his words carry across the sporting world. He relished the chance to poke fun at Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, who he said makes golf interesting "for people who don't play the game", with the implication obvious. At the time, Woods was just weeks away from completing the Tiger Slam by winning the Masters to claim his fourth consecutive major title. I look at 2000 as being the benchmark, at the US Open as being the greatest golf I've ever witnessed and I believe ever has been played. "You've just got to get yourself in the right frame of mind to go out and do that".

"We just need to see Tiger show us that he can win on a regular tour stage first, and then maybe that will give him the confidence, but it's extremely hard to win these days, there are so many good players".

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