It almost never happens: Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson in the same group. And the third guy is sure to generate a lot of interest as well because it’s Rickie Fowler.
“Tiger and Phil are definitely guys I looked up to as a kid, and I know guys of my generation and younger, if they didn't watch them or look up to them in some way, then they may not be out here playing professional golf,” Fowler said about the star-studded threesome.
The only issue for him may be the mega-star power of the other two.
“May try and putt out as much as I can before Tiger does, just so that I'm not hitting while the circus is moving on, but it's going to be fun,” he added. “Hopefully the three of us can kind of get things going and feed off each other and get ourselves in a great position for the weekend.”
Despite what people may think, Mickelson and Woods get along, and Fowler has seen that firsthand.
“I definitely think, as a fan, maybe not knowing how much time they have spent together in the past few years with kind of the Ryder Cup stuff, I think — Tiger and Phil are a bit closer than people knew beforehand,” Fowler explained. “They're starting to see a little bit of that coming out, them playing a practice round at Augusta, and with the Ryder Cup stuff, and the two of them being very involved.”
Woods has been away from THE PLAYERS for several years and qualified for the event based on his five-year exemption from winning the 2013 event. This week, it was pointed out that in 2000-2001, Woods had all the historic major championship trophies on his mantel and THE PLAYERS in 2001, giving him a super slam. No one else has done that.
“It was 12 years between wins here, and so as you all know, just looking at my record, I didn't play this place well … I struggled with it,” Woods said. “You have to play well here. There's no way of faking it around this golf course. You have to hit the golf ball well. You hit the ball well here, you're in correct spots, and you can make birdies, and I didn't do that.”
Mickelson won in 2007, beating Sergio Garcia.
“I love this tournament,” said Mickelson. “I'm excited to be back. It's a real challenge for me. I look at this course; I just can't believe I've actually won here. It's a really difficult course that's punishing. It's been fun to be a part of the past champions here, because it really takes some special golf to win out here.”
Mickelson won earlier this year at the WGC event in Mexico, halting a five-year-drought after his 2013 British Open. It was his 43rd PGA Tour victory and his 49th professional title.
According to Woods, one of the reasons they were not typically in the same group in tournaments is that they were often No. 1 and No. 2, or close to that, in the world golf rankings. The PGA Tour would have one of them in the morning on Thursday and the other in the afternoon, flipping that on Friday to give fans a chance to have a full day of star-gazing. This week, however, fans are treated to a special event with a star-packed field that includes two of the best who have ever played the game and one who is still building his resume.
Fowler, Mickelson and Woods tee off at 1:52 PM Thursday and 8:27 AM on Friday.