Published: Wed, May 09, 2018
World Media | By Cesar Oliver

Tiger Woods to have a 'blast' partnering Phil Mickelson at Players Championship

Tiger Woods to have a 'blast' partnering Phil Mickelson at Players Championship

- Phil Mickelson is looking forward to his grouping with Tiger Woods this week at the Players Championship, a rare early-round encounter with his longtime nemesis at a tournament where they have played just a single round together. All of which makes Tiger Woods' 683 weeks atop the world ranking that much more remarkable.

"Our friendship has gotten stronger over the years", Woods said of Mickelson, per Kevin Cunningham of Golf.com.

"We don't get to do it very often", Woods said. "But at the end of the day, they both win, and they're both guys that we look at and say, it's unbelievable what they're doing, and they're just changing the game, the game how it's played". 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.

"We all know what kind of short game he has, he can get up and down from a trash can". "We've been going at it for the better part of over 20 years, and it's fun for both of us to be able to do that". "I said, 'Yeah, you and I have the same philosophy in how we approach chipping and how we do it". I just didn't hit good putts, and on top of that, the ones I did hit well, I didn't have enough speed on them.

The two adversaries have seen their relationship mellow over the years to the point that they played a practice round together last month at the Masters.

Woods failed to make a birdie in a round for just the 11th time as a pro and the first time since the final round of the tournament at Doral in 2014. This year, the victor will earn three-year exemptions for all four majors on Tour - not to mention a five-year PGA Tour exemption. That sort of thing never happened in the past, and the PGA Tour typically went out of its way to not group them in the first two rounds of an event. Of 56 attempts at hitting the fairway, Woods was successful only 25 times, meaning his iron play was stressed better than half the time.

In 2005 at Doral, the two set out on Sunday in the final group, with Woods closing in 66 to clip Mickelson by a stroke, in what is considered one of the decade's most entertaining duels.

"J.T. has become one of my friends, and he gives me crap all the time that he was on his dad's shoulders when I won (the 2000 PGA Championship) at Valhalla", Woods said.

Day had an bad day of wayward driving and squandered a three-shot lead on the back nine with consecutive bogeys, before rising to the occasion and hitting one of the best clutch shots of his life. I mean, the only time I can remember I think is the PGA and the U.S. Open in '08. It was with that earnestness that he praised Jason Day's play during his win last week, and touched on how fun it has been gaining friends like Justin Thomas, and spoke appreciatively of Mickelson's support during on- and off-course struggles in recent years. It seems many fans would be fine bypassing the formalities of 72 holes of stroke play, and Woods didn't seem averse to the idea.

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