Rivals Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, together again, in ideal harmony...maybe

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As you have likely heard (several times) by now, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods are paired together for the first two rounds of this week's Players Championship (oh, along with Rickie Fowler, too).

"Well, first of all ... big picture, " Woods said with a smirk, a reference to his 79 career victories, including 14 major championships, to Mickelson's 43 and five. "I felt as if my game improved as the week went on. hopefully I can build upon that next week, tighten a few areas up". Mickelson went on to win the Players shortly thereafter. It will be the first time since 2001 that Mickelson and Woods have been paired together at the Players, which begins Thursday at TPC Sawgrass. While part of that was down to the fact the organisers did not want to put all their eggs in one basket, there was also the fact the pair could not stand one another.

Woods has not won a major in almost a decade and does not have a Tour win since 2013; it's been about five years since Mickelson's last major, and his victory at the WGC-Mexico Championship in March was his first Tour win in more than four years. You've got to plot your way around, and pars aren't so bad around there most of the time.

It nearly never happens: Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson in the same group. Two weeks later he would complete the "Tiger Slam" by winning the Masters for his fourth consecutive major title.

Woods has shown no signs of the struggles this year around the greens.

"I think [it] has certainly gotten a lot closer with me being a vice captain the last couple teams and sitting there and having very lengthy conversations with him about things", Woods said.

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"Phil and I have a great banter - we give each other a lot of needle", the 14-time major victor revealed. Woods' golf game was always easy to appreciate.

'Looking back, it was so impressive it was hard to imagine it was actually happening, that he could keep hitting the shots he hit week after week.

He had only one birdie chance from inside 10 feet - a five-footer that he missed at the par-five 10th. While you'd think the third person in the group would be impacted by the circus around them, that hasn't been the case. At 47, he is playing as well as he has for the past decade. The one that has eluded him is the U.S. Open, where he is a six-time runner-up. We don't really do this very often, unfortunately. Not to mention enough of an edge. "I think it's really fun".

Most times, Fowler is a main attraction, followed by large crowds.

Woods closed with a 74 to finish at two-over-par 286 at Quail Hollow in Charlotte. "I feel better", Woods said. All three in their pairing are former Players winners. Mickelson and Sergio Garcia partnered in the made-for-TV 2003 Battle at the Bridges against Woods and Ernie Els. For that, he needed to replicate his stunning final round of 2010 - when a closing 62 saw him leapfrog through the field to claim the title - but, this time, the Northern Irishman was unable to reproduce any of that drama and ultimately was confined to the role of bit player.

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