Woods and Mickelson set for a showdown in year’s final Major
Top Americans and great rivals in form as they prepare for the start of the USPGA at Oak Hill
Main contenders: Following their recent respective victories,Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson will expect to be in contention at the USPGA this week at Oak Hill. Photo: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Theirs is a rivalry which spices up the adrenalin juices. Tiger-Phil. Phil-Tiger. Whichever way you flip it, the two – with contrasting charismatic characteristics – have the capacity to generate box office appeal. And, for a change, it is Tiger Woods who heads into this week’s US PGA championship at Oak Hill seeking to emulate Phil Mickelson.
Woods did many things in claiming an eighth WGC-Bridgestone Invitational title at Akron on Sunday, before jumping into his private jet for the short trip to Rochester, in upstate New York. He tied his career low competitive score of 61 (in the second round); took his career total of wins on the US Tour to 79 titles, just three shy of Sam Snead’s record; won for a fifth time in a season to a record-extending ten times; and won his 18th WGC title, 15 more than Geoff Ogilvy, the second-most successful player.
However, most intriguingly of all, Woods won his final tune-up before a Major. Last month, Mickelson captured the Scottish Open the week before going on to win the British Open at Muirfield, his fifth career Major. Woods, for his part, has won 20 times in his last outing prior to a Major and gone on to win the following Grand Slam event on four occasions.
The last time was in 2007, when he won the PGA after winning at Akron.
No-one can doubt Woods’s form this season is back to his imperious best, at least in regular tournaments and the WGCs. His win in the Bridgestone was his fifth win of the season – coming on the back of his victory in the Farmers Insurance Open (for a seventh time), the WGC-Cadillac championship (for a seventh time), the Players at Sawgrass (for a second time) and the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill (for an eighth time) – but that form hasn’t transferred itself to the Majors. Not yet, at any rate.
Indeed, in his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus’s record 18 wins, Woods has been stuck on 14 career Majors since claiming the US Open at Torrey Pines in 2008.
His annexation of WGC titles is, quite simply, phenomenal. In the aftermath of his win on Sunday night, Woods remarked: “I think that one thing I’m proud of is obviously how many World Golf Championships I’ve won, but also how many years I’ve won five or more times in a season. I don’t know what the total is, eight or nine?” Ten, actually.
“That’s something I’m very proud of is how many tournaments I’ve been able to win consistently, year in and year out, and then how many World Golf Championships I’ve been able to win . . . . some of the greats, these championships weren’t around when they played, but for my generation they have been. To be able to beat the best players in the world at more than just the Major championships and the players, to have a few more tournaments where we get assembled and to get to go battle against each other, that’s something we all look forward to, and that’s one of the reasons why these World Golf Championships were constituted. So to be able to have won this many, that’s something I’m very proud of.”