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Tiger v. Phil is more likely than ever at Oak Hill

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The 95th installment of the PGA Championship carries a number of intriguing story lines into Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, NY.

Will another “best without a major” candidate rid himself of the proverbial monkey like Adam Scott and Justin Rose did in 2013? Can Rory McIlroy rid himself of the criticisms, get his first win in a Nike hat and defend his PGA Championship crown? Will Shaun Micheel beat all odds and win again at Oak Hill?

Fascinating, yes, but let’s be realistic. What golf fans really want to talk about is Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.

Golf’s heavyweight contenders are both in top form for this year’s final major. The race for player of year has come down to Tiger and Phil, unless Adam Scott or Justin Rose can muster a second major championship victory.

Woods is coming off a rout at Firestone Country Club, where he won by seven shots against a stacked World Golf Championship field, set up by a 61 in Round 2. His five wins this year, however, come without a major.

Mickelson has three worldwide wins in 2013, including two wins across the pond in Scotland. His final-round 66 at the British Open at Muirfield proved historic, earning him a trophy that many golf fans thought he would never win — the Claret Jug.

phil

Since 2004, Tiger has won six major championships, while Phil has tallied five. The rivalry golf fans always wished for is coming to fruition, and it isn’t as one-sided as it was earlier in Tiger’s career.

When asked about his rivals, Tiger acknowledged on Monday that he’s always butted heads with Vijay Singh, Ernie Els and Mickelson. On Mickelson specifically, he said, “When we have battled, it’s been in some big events, and we’ve shot some pretty good numbers together.”

With the top players seemingly converging on each other heading into the year’s final major, it’s a rivalry that’s becoming more like Palmer vs. Nicklaus by the day.

“In the last five or six years, I’ve had some pretty good success head-to-head and I feel like he brings out the best golf in me,” Mickelson said. “He’s a great motivator for me. He’s helped me work hard. He’s helped me put forth the effort to try to compete at the highest level year-in and year-out and I’ve loved competing against him.”

Mickelson said, when asked about whether he grows tired of being pitted against Tiger, “The goal is for me to play my best when he is playing his best.”

His words verbalize the thoughts of all golf fans, since Tiger said “hello world” in 1997. Golf fans want the world’s best, playing their best, to battle on golf’s biggest stages.

Tiger provided some further insight into the duel, or lack thereof:

“We’ve known each other since — started probably more in ’97 when I made the Ryder Cup team then. We’ve battled and we’ve gone head-to-head quite a few times. Not as much as people might think.”

They gave us a taste of it at Muirfield, with both of them in the hunt on the back nine on Sunday. Mickelson, however, with four birdies on the closing holes, removed the drama from the event by blowing out the field by three shots and beating Tiger by five.

stricker and woods

Tiger’s work with Sean Foley and the putting tips he continues to receive from Steve Stricker have his game as sharp as ever. Mickelson’s smarter approach off the tee has him in play consistently, and he’s been nothing short of magical on the greens in the last month.

Fire and ice are set to clash on the grounds at Oak Hill, and it’s something golf fans are desperately hoping for. Except this time around, unlike in years past, it’s more likely than ever.

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He played on the Hawaii Pacific University Men's Golf team and earned a Masters degree in Communications. He also played college golf at Rutgers University, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism.

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Gib

    Aug 11, 2013 at 1:02 am

    Well that was a total waste of space, time, and breath on a meaningless article, huh?

  2. Chris

    Aug 8, 2013 at 2:45 pm

    Ooh yeah, bomb and gouge but can’t make a putt. That’s the type if golf I love to watch… Yawn!

  3. J

    Aug 7, 2013 at 7:12 am

    Bubba and Dustin….

    Really.

  4. Frank

    Aug 6, 2013 at 10:26 pm

    I think the speculation of Tiger vs Phil is greater than Tiger vs Phil. Tiger likes to get the lead early and play to par in the final round, holding onto the lead to win. Phil now plays the conservative, anti-hero, smart game. Both players know what score they will need to post on the final day to win and they will play to that number. No gamesmanship, intimidation or extra pressure.

    Tiger isn’t going to stick the pin on the shot following Phil’s shot because he knows he can’t afford a bogey. Phil isn’t going to play the low percentage because he knows it won’t give him the number he needs.

    Give me Bubba and Dustin Johnson in the final round pairing. That’s fun golf.

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