SAN FRANCISCO – Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson often bring out the best in each other’s games. Just don’t expect any friendly conversations when golf’s greatest running rivalry resumes at the US Open.
Luckily, there’s a guy in their group with a pink driver and a green jacket to lighten the mood.
Woods and Mickelson will play with Masters champion Bubba Watson for the first two rounds beginning Thursday at The Olympic Club. It will be the first time Woods and Mickelson have been paired in the championship since Torrey Pines in 2008, when the US Golf Association grouped players off the world ranking.
In typical fashion, Woods brushed off any notion that his playing partners will affect how he plays. Mickelson, meanwhile, couldn’t stop gushing just thinking about all those giddy fans and camera clicks that will surround the ninth hole when he, Watson and the 14-time major champion tee off just after dawn.
Leave it to one of golf’s grandest stages to bring such contrasting personalities together.
“It’s fabulous,” Mickelson said. “First of all, I get excited to play with Tiger, I love it. I think we all do. He gets the best out of me. I think when it’s time to tee off Thursday I’ll be ready to play.”
The pair last played together about a two-hour drive down the California coast at Pebble Beach, where Mickelson whipped Woods and rallied to win in February. In the majors, Mickelson topped him in the final round of the 2009 Masters won by Angel Cabrera, though Woods beat him soundly at Torrey Pines on his way to winning the US Open.
Rory McIlroy is the defending champion and got a shot of confidence from the St. Jude Classic last week, despite a double bogey from the water on the last hole that cost him a chance at winning. Giving his recent run of three missed cuts, McIlroy was happy to be playing Sunday, much less contending.
Luke Donald is No. 1 in the world and knows he will be taken more seriously if he can finally add a major. Ditto for Lee Westwood, No. 3 in the world, who has given himself more chances than Donald in the majors and still hasn’t won one. But it starts with Woods, as it has since he won the first of his 14 majors as a 21-year-old at Augusta.
“It’s going to be a wonderful test,” he said. – AP