Tiger, Phil take rivalry to ping pong table

Published Oct. 7, 2009 11:07 p.m. EDT

Given the Internationals' oh-fer futility on American soil, the most competitive sporting event to be played this week at Harding Park might just come within the confines of the U.S. team chalet.

Update: Match 2009

Editor's Note: Tiger and Phil went at it after the Presidents Cup gala dinner Tuesday night and Mickelson emerged as the winner.

"I don't know what you mean by finally," Mickelson said. "But again, it happened, yes."

U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover confirmed that after beating Woods and Zach Johnson, "Phil's got the Wednesday title but we'll see what happens on Sunday".

Anthony Kim, who will partner Mickelson at Harding Park as he did last year at the Ryder Cup, said Mickelson was "very beatable."

"I like to talk a bit of smack," says Kim. "Phil likes to talk about how good he is but let's talk about how I went 3-0 against him. I mean, it wasn't even a match."

Mickelson shook his head when told of Kim's boast.

"That's a lie because we haven't even played yet."

Pong: Tiger vs Phil.

Not surprisingly to anyone who knows these two alpha dogs, golf's most heated rivalry doesn't end on the course. For five years, they've been intense pingpong combatants.

"Man, they go at it," says Kenny Perry, whom Woods on Tuesday nominated as the Americans' best pingpong player.

(Perry, for the record, says he's out of practice and was "thumped" by U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover Monday night.)

"There's a lot of paddle throwing, tantrums, balls pounded into each other," Perry says, "I love all the barbs between them. Their language, whoa, it's unbelievable."

He declined to provide a transcript other than, "Just say it's X-rated".

The series dates back to 2004, when Woods invited Mickelson to play in the Ryder Cup team room.

To say the two have never been friends is a gross understatement, but it had historically been Woods more than Mickelson who'd resisted any easing of tensions.

So when he offered to play Mickelson, it was widely interpreted as an act of détente. But was it?

One Mickelson ally says pithily, "Maybe it was, but maybe it was just another thing he wanted to kick Phil's ass at."

Whatever his motivation, I'm told that Woods prevailed.

The tradition continued the following year, at the Presidents Cup at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Virginia. The result didn't change.

"They went out and played the first game, Tiger won; they played the second game, Tiger won," U.S. captain Jack Nicklaus recalled.