Woods, Mickelson prepare for latest epic clash in Charity Match

Tiger Woods8Hobe Sound, Florida: Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson have shared the PGA TOUR stage for nearly a quarter of a century, and to say they are the two biggest stars of their generation is an understatement.

The numbers are overwhelming – a combined 983 PGA TOUR tournaments played, producing 126 victories, 67 second-place finishes and countless thrills for golf fans.

The memories will be added to this Sunday, May 24, at Medalist Golf Club, where Woods and Mickelson will be two of the stars in a COVID-19 fundraising tournament alongside a pair of other athletes who know something about sharing their sport’s spotlight – National Football League (NFL) icons Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.  Capital One’s The Match: Champions for Charity features the two teams playing a four-ball (best-ball) format on the front nine and a modified alternate-shot format on the back.

Woods and Mickelson have an extensive history competing together, having played in the same grouping 37 times on Tour, with Woods shooting the better score 18 times to Mickelson’s 15. More importantly, Woods has won 10 times compared to Mickelson’s five when went head to head in the same group.

They have finished 1-2 in Tour events nine times over the course of their sterling careers, beginning at the 1998 Sentry Tournament of Champions, where Mickelson held off a furious Sunday rally from Woods to win. The pair finished 1-2 in an event in five consecutive years and last accomplished the feat at the 2009 Tour Championship. Mickelson got the better of Woods that time, too, as he shot a bogey-free 65 on the final day to win by three shots.

The best of those epic matchups? That honour likely falls to the 2005 Ford Championship at Doral in Miami, where Woods clipped Mickelson by one shot. “It was electric,” said Woods, who went out in 33 strokes to shave a shot off his deficit as Mickelson turned in 34.

Woods making birdie at No. 10 to tie was riveting, but when he reached the green at the 605-yard 12th and made a 27-foot eagle putt to go two in front, the ground shook. Mickelson, however, wasn’t shaken. The reigning Masters champion was in the midst of arguably his greatest stretch of play and would go on to win the PGA Championship five months later. “I loved it,” said Lefty, “because I want a chance to compete against him at his best.”

Mickelson proceeded to birdie the demanding par-3 13th and beguiling par-4 14th to pull even. “That shows you what kind of competitor Phil is,” said Woods. The deciding blow came at the par-4 17th, Woods’ birdie helping him shoot 66 to overtake Mickelson (69).

Mickelson often had a knack for beating Woods at his best. The most memorable of those wins was the 2000 Farmers Invitational at Torrey Pines, where Woods was going for an unprecedented seventh consecutive Tour victory. But Mickelson, approaching his 30th birthday and nearly two years removed from his last win, stood tall with four birdies over his final six holes to stave off his rival.

“It was important for me to win again,” said Mickelson. “It was important for me to go head to head against the best player in the world and know that I can beat him.”

Here is a look at all nine times that the pair have finished first and second in a Tour event.

1998 Sentry Tournament of Champions, LaCosta CC, Carlsbad, California: Mickelson, five ahead of Woods to start the final day, hung on to win, at 17-under, but not before a 22-year-old Woods dazzled the crowd with a closing 64 to nearly steal the show.

1999 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, Firestone CC, Akron, Ohio: Woods was a whopping seven ahead of Mickelson to start the final round, but with five birdies in his first 10 holes, Lefty got into the mix. A bogey at 16 by Mickelson slowed his charge, however, and Woods threw down a clutch birdie at 17 to give him a one-shot win.

2000 Farmers Invitational, Torrey Pines, San Diego, Calif.: Mickelson started Sunday six clear of Woods, and they put on a show, combining for 13 birdies, two double bogeys and three bogeys. Mickelson shot 70 and held off Woods, who shot 68, by four strokes. Mickelson’s triumph halted Woods’ streak of six straight wins.

2000 TOUR Championship, East Lake CC, Atlanta, Georgia: Mickelson started the final round one behind Woods, the co-leader with Vijay Singh, but puts up 4-under 66 to rally for a two-stroke victory. Woods shot 69 and was denied a 10th win that season.

2001 Arnold Palmer Invitational, Bay Hill Club & Lodge, Orlando, Florida: Four behind Woods to start the final round, Mickelson charged home in 66 and was tied for the lead when he finished. But Woods birdied the final hole, shot 69, and won by one.

2002 U.S. Open, Bethpage State Park (Black), Farmingdale, New York: The only time they’ve finished 1-2 in a major, this was vintage Woods relentlessly holding on despite not having his best stuff. Woods began the final round five shots ahead of Mickelson, bogeyed each of his first two holes, and two of his last three, but shot 72 and held on to win by three.

2005 Ford Championship at Doral, Doral Resort and Lodge, Miami, Florida: The only time in their careers that Woods and Mickelson have been in the final pairing in a final round and finished 1-2. Woods closed with a 66 to overtake Mickelson, who shot 69. It was arguably their greatest head-to-head battle.

2007 Deutsche Bank Championship, TPC Boston, Norton, Massachusetts: Paired in the penultimate group on the final day, Mickelson was two off the lead, Woods three, and all eyes were on them. Mickelson fired a 66 to win the tournament, Woods setting for a 67 to tie for second.

2009 TOUR Championship, East Lake GC, Atlanta: Utterly brilliant finish by Mickelson, who shoots bogey-free 65 and storms from behind to win by three over Woods. Mickelson gets $1.35m for winning TOUR Championship, Woods earns $10m for season-long FedExCup Championship.