If only it was the Masters on a Sunday.
That was about the only thing missing on Tuesday when Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, the two most prominent stars in golf the last two decades, joined together for a practice round in preparation of this week’s Masters at Augusta National Golf Club.
The two golf megastars played the back nine at Augusta National on Tuesday. The practice round was set up on Monday, and Fred Couples and Thomas Pieters joined the pair. Tuesday was the first time Woods and Mickelson practiced together in roughly 20 years, according to media estimates.
— Masters Tournament (@TheMasters) April 3, 2018
The sight of two of the game’s greats talking, laughing and fraternizing was something to behold. Mickelson was in top form, reeling off five birdies on the back nine, prompting Tiger to be effusive in his praise of his rival.
Returning the favor, Mickelsen credited Woods for a large portion of success in his career. There is a thought that without Woods in the fold, Mickelson would have won double-digit majors. Mickelsen doesn’t see it like that.
“Nobody respects and appreciates what he’s done for the game more because nobody’s benefited from what he’s done for the game of golf more than I have,” Mickelson said. “I’ve always had that appreciation and respect for him.”
Woods, who has not played in the Masters since 2015, was all smiles playing with Mickelson, making a pair of eagles on the par-5 13th and 15th holes to go along with a birdie on the 16th. Woods even offered Mickelson a compliment, something a younger and more intense Tiger would never do.
“He’s feisty. He’s determined. He always wants to win,” Woods said. “It has served him well. He believes in himself an awful lot. And you see the chances he’s taken over the years – the reason why he does that is because he knows he can do it and he has that belief.
“And that’s what has separated him. That’s why he’s won so many tournaments, that’s why he’s won so many major championships, is that he truly believes he can pull it off. That’s what have you to have; you have to have that belief.”
Woods, 42, and Mickelson, 47, are on the back nine of their careers. That appreciation of 20 years of competition isn’t lost on Woods, who seems to have a new-found joy on the course. It took Woods being on the sidelines to appreciate Mickelson’s play.
“Our friendship has gotten stronger over the years,” Woods said. “We have competed a lot of times coming down the stretch in events. We were joking today about some of the thoughts that transpired here. We have gone through it a long time, and the better part of 20 years our friendship has certainly gotten a lot better.
“And I think it’s just age as well. We’re at the tail end of our careers, we both know that. He’s 47, I believe, and I’m 42, and we have had a great 20‑year battle, hopefully we’ll have a few more, but we understand where we are in the game now versus where we were in our early 20s, battling for who is going to be No. 1, and that was then and certainly this is now.”
Tuesday’s practice round was a sight for sore eyes for golf fans. It was 20 years in the making and even left Rory McIlroy smiling.
“I said, ‘I never thought I would see the day,’” McIlroy joked after. “‘Tiger and Phil playing a practice round at Augusta.’”
The only thing that would make it better would be a repeat of the pairing on Sunday afternoon.
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