PITTSFORD, N.Y. – Here they are again, back at the top of the world rankings.
Tiger Woods, No. 1.
Phil Mickelson, No. 2.
Wouldn’t it be something if they went out in the final pairing of the PGA Championship on Sunday, head-to-head with a major title on the line, still the guys to beat after all these years?
Mickelson would certainly relish the challenge.
“I’ve always been a competitive person,” Lefty said Tuesday, coming in from a practice round at Oak Hill. “I’m as motivated as ever to compete and to play and get the best golf out of me, to hopefully play against Tiger when he’s playing his best. That would ultimately be the goal – I can play as well as I can at the same time he’s doing the same.
“I’d love that opportunity.”
Both are on top of their games entering the year’s final major.
Woods is coming off a seven-stroke win at the Bridgestone, his PGA Tour-leading fifth victory of the year. Less than three weeks ago, Mickelson won the British Open with a dazzling final round at Muirfield.
While Woods is mired in the longest major drought of his career – more than five years – he’s clearly bounced back from personal woes, a series of injuries, and major changes in his swing.
“I feel like my game’s pretty good,” Woods said.
Mickelson is playing with similar confidence.
“I’m more motivated than ever to work hard to succeed, because I can taste some of my best golf coming out,” he said.
“I can feel it.”
Woods and Mickelson have never been especially close off the course, that sense of underlying animosity only adding to their rivalry. Also, it was a one-sided affair for much of the late 1990s and early 2000s, as Woods piled up major titles with staggering regularity while Mickelson developed a reputation as the best player without one.
But things began to heat up in 2004 when Lefty finally broke through to win the Masters. That began a three-year stretch where Woods and Mickelson combined to win six of the 12 major titles.
Things cooled a bit in recent years, but they’re warming again.
Woods reclaimed his top spot in the world rankings with more PGA Tour victories (eight) than anyone over the last two years. He’s also been a consistent contender in the biggest events and it seems just a matter of time before he claims major No. 15.
Mickelson has addressed two of the biggest flaws in his game, a shaky putting touch and wayward shots off the tee – so much so, that he now considers them to be strengths.
“I think it’s been a great year so far for me,” Woods said.
You know what would be even better? Woods vs. Mickelson on Sunday, with a major on the line.
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.