Tiger Woods returns to TPC focused on regaining momentum

Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson will tee it up together at TPC Sawgrass

Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson will tee it up together at TPC Sawgrass. Getty Images

For the first time since 2001, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson will be grouped together at the Players Championship and will be joined by Rickie Fowler at the PGA Tour's signature event this week.

It will be the first time Mickelson and Woods have been paired together since the 2014 PGA Championship, where Woods missed the cut and Mickelson finished second to Rory McIlroy by one stroke.

"I do enjoy (playing with Mickelson) because we don't get to do it very often", Woods said.

"I think we are really seeing a changing of the guard, you look at the old perennial guys who were favourites in majors and great Ryder Cup players, two on your side in Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer, they're down to number 100 and number 98 in the world". "I'm just so thankful to be able to have this opportunity again, because I didn't know if I would ever have it", Woods said. "I didn't know if I would even be able to play the Tour consistently or I'd be relegated to just hanging on the sidelines and watching from TV or maybe just playing one tournament a quarter or something like that".

"It sucked to have to play against him", Mickelson said.

In fact, Mickelson is so excited that he told reporters that instead of going through the tournament, he'd prefer to just go head-to-head with Woods.

"It was 12 years between wins here, and so, as y'all know, just looking at my record, I didn't play this place well". And it (stunk) to have to play against him. They lived on opposite ends of the country and had different lifestyles for so much of their careers. "How many times have we both won on Tour?"

Additionally, when asked about Mickelson's joke about how Woods might be too scared to take him on, Woods had a comeback ready. "I think it was that good", Mickelson said.

Woods has always been more effective on surfaces that score high on the Stimpmeter. They put several other past champions and big time players together, including a Bubba Watson-Dustin Johnson-Brooks Koepka group that averages a collective 927 yards off the tee.

Since his return, Woods has been less predictable in the public eye and more approachable with fans. Although Woods' accomplishments are the stuff of legend, he and Mickelson crossed paths rarely in those prime years. It was the highlight of a 6-under par round of 66, and Woods went on to win the title the following day.

"I'm hitting the ball well enough to contend, to win this golf tournament", he said.

Wise, who was chasing his maiden PGA win, had to settle for joint second with Watney (69) on 10 under after a 68. "You hit the ball well where you're in correct spots, and you can make birdies, and I didn't do that".

But if Mickelson seemed a tad tongue-in-cheek regarding the big show, it likely had something to do with his long and complicated history with Woods.

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