Woods and Mickelson to meet at The Players
Golf’s finest reconvene for the first time since the Masters this week at for the highly-anticipated Players Championship, as a summer festival of golf swings sharply into view.
TPC Sawgrass is the venue for one of the PGA Tour's flagship event and takes it's spot in a jam-packed section of the calendar – headlined by The 147th Open Championship in a little over two months’ time.
The tee times have thrown up some fascinating pairings, with a host of Champion Golfers facing off in what will be a thrilling four days of golf.
Caged Tiger ready to pounce
Utter the words “better than most” and golf fans everywhere will instantly recall Phil Mickelson looking on in astonishment and Tiger Woods roaring in delight.
TPC Sawgrass was the setting and the famous 17th green the stage. Woods, seemingly stuck at the back after a loose approach shot, took aim and sent a delicate putt trickling down the treacherous slope.
It twisted. It turned. And the crowd collectively held its breath. But Woods knew it was in before anyone else and celebrated wildly when it inevitably dropped.
Gary Koch’s commentary, which is as famous as the putt itself, brilliantly encapsulated another major moment in one of golf’s great rivalries.
Three times he described Woods’ attempt as “better than most”. But he underestimated where it would eventually end up.
Woods went on to lift the trophy and now, 17 years later, he and Mickelson will play together again – two greats of the game battling to defy age and remain at the top.
A birdie-free final round at the Wells Fargo Championship, coupled with an underwhelming return to the Masters last month, has left Woods frustrated.
However, the three-time Champion Golfer of the Year insists things are improving and a return to TPC Sawgrass, a place he has won at twice before and the scene of one of his greatest moments, could provide some inspiration – along with playing with his old rival Mickelson.
“We don't get to do it very often," Woods said. "We are normally paired up on the weekend if we are both playing well, and even that's a rarity. I know they tried that first experiment in 2008 -- 1, 2, 3, we're out together [at the U.S. Open, where they were grouped according to the world rankings] -- and that was a blast for both of us.
“We've been going at it for the better part of over 20 years, and it's fun for both of us to be able to do that.''
Spieth and McIlroy face off
The draw for The Players Championship has thrown up some other fascinating pairings across the first two days but none more than Champion Golfers Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth.
The duo will be alongside current PGA champion Justin Thomas and there is no doubt the crowds will flock to watch the trio play at one of the season’s biggest tournaments.
McIlroy admits it took him a few weeks to recover from his Masters heartbreak, where he failed to mount a serious challenge for a maiden Green Jacket despite being in the final pairing.
Bjorn again at Verdura
While many are focussing on The Players’ Championship, the European Tour is also set for a thrilling weekend as it rolls into Verdura for the Rocco Forte Sicilian Open.
European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn will headline the event, seeking his 16th European Tour title and will battle alongside the likes of Matteo Manassero, Eddie Pepperell and Edoardo Molinari.
Bjorn said: “I was very impressed by Verdura Resort when I took part in the event last year and am looking forward to returning and playing the course again. It should be another very enjoyable week.”