Best enemies Tiger, Phil paired Sunday
What an intriguing dish the BMW Championship serves up on Sunday.
Tiger vs. Phil.
The top two ranked golfers in the world and the sport’s two biggest draws, will play together for the first time since last year’s HSBC event in Shanghai and for the first time on American soil since the final round of last year’s Masters.
In reality, neither is likely to win the third of the FedEx Cup playoff events -- they start the final round eight shots behind Ryan Moore’s lead -- but rest assured both will be very motivated.
Forget whatever shows of public detente they’ve displayed: These two just don’t like each other.
Factor in, too, that Mickelson has been Punxsutawney Phil this year in his quest to take over the world No. 1 ranking as Woods has struggled.
Every time he’s gotten close, it’s been Groundhog Day and he’s done nothing but extend his record streak at No. 2.
Given that Mickelson needs to win or finish second at Cog Hill to take over No. 1, the streak is not likely to end this week.
Woods, meanwhile, apart from the personal motivation of playing against his nemesis, needs a top-five finish just to get to the Tour Championship in two weeks.
“I’d like to just get a low round,” Mickelson said after a Saturday’s 1-under-par round of 70.
“I’ve hit a lot of good shots this week, and I just haven’t gotten a good score out of it. I’d like to just get a good round to give me some momentum.”
In Mickelson’s favor is the fact he’s 5-1-1 in their past seven head-to-head meetings. He also won the Shanghai tournament with Woods in the final group last November.
Woods hasn’t beaten the left-hander since the second round of the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines.
Earlier this year, Mickelson -- who for years had his colors lowered when playing alongside Woods -- spoke about how much he now enjoyed going up against him.
“I've needed him to help me get my best golf out, and he has pushed me to work harder and he has pushed me to become a better player,” he said.
“I also feel that when he and I would play earlier on in my career, I didn't perform to my best of my abilities.
“And now I believe that when I'm paired with him or compete against him or with him, he gets my best golf out of me, or I find a way to play my best golf.
“I don't know how you want to phrase it. But I find that I need him for me to play my best.
“There's a number of reasons. I don't want to go into it, but for the last -- starting in about 2007 -- I started to feel as though I was able to play my best with him, against him, and I certainly feel that way recently. I feel like it actually helps me play my best.”
It’s not coincidental that Mickelson started feeling more comfortable playing against Woods when he hired Butch Harmon as his coach three years ago.
Harmon was in Woods’ corner for the first six years of his professional career and gave Mickelson great insight into how to play against Woods.
It was, in a sense, as if Angelo Dundee left Muhammad Ali and found his way into the corner of Joe Frazier or George Foreman.
Woods did not know he’d be playing with Mickelson when he left Cog Hill after a 3-under Saturday round of 68.
His focus, not surprisingly, was on shooting a very low round on Sunday.
If he doesn’t, he’ll face two weeks off before the Ryder Cup; he’ll potentially be the only member of the U.S. team not at East Lake for the Tour Championship.
“Hopefully, tomorrow I can play myself into a round where I can be in contention to win,” he said.
Last year, he set the course record at Cog Hill with a 62.
“But we had perfect greens last year, which was kind of nice,” he said.
“It’s a little different this year. No one is really making a lot of putts out there. It just means you have to hit the ball close. Hopefully, I can give myself 18 looks at it and see what happens.”
Woods tried to shoot a round in the mid-60s on Saturday but again couldn’t keep bogeys off his card.
He spoke later of the difficulty in trying to learn a new swing while competing in tournaments.
“That’s the problem, I’m playing,” he said.
“I’ve thought so far I’ve done pretty good on making changes and playing at the same time.
“If I would have had two, three months off to work on it, then it would be a totally different deal.”