Phil Mickelson is ready to cut to the chase with Tiger Woods.
“We haven’t been paired together in years, and as I look at the cover of the newspaper and the pairing is on there and the excitement that’s 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 Tuesday of his high-profile pairing with Woods (and Rickie Fowler) Thursday and Friday at the Players Championship.
“Now, I don’t know if he wants a piece of me 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.”
It has been four years since Woods and Mickelson have played together in the first two rounds and Mickelson seemed to be only half joking when he suggested he and Woods set up their own match and go from there. The two played a practice round together at the Masters and it was one of the highlights of the week.
Mickelson said he and Woods talked about the Players pairing last week at the Wells Fargo Championship and said, “We wish it would happen more.”
Over the years, the Woods-Mickelson dynamic has evolved, gradually softening as they have grown into their 40s. Though they haven’t played together often, they’ve spent hours together in team rooms at Ryder Cups and Presidents Cups, even playing doubles ping-pong together at times.
While Mickelson, 47, has already won this year, Woods continues to work his way back from spinal fusion surgery in what is likely to be his first full season since 2013, when he won five times. Mickelson said his victory at the WGC-Mexico Championship in March was not a peak but another step in what he believes is an ongoing climb.
He believes Woods is on a similar trajectory.
“I think once you’ve touched that level of greatness, I think it’s much easier to get it back than it is to find it for the first time because you know what it feels like, you know what it takes to get there, you know how to do it,” Mickelson said.
“And I think that we love to be challenged, and I think this is a great challenge for him to get back to that level. Just like I love to be challenged and play against and compete against the best players in the world, it’s what motivates us and inspires us, and so I don’t think either he or I believe that he couldn’t get that back.”