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SportColumn: Woods, Mickelson still going strong

22:35  12 february  2019
22:35  12 february  2019 Source:

Phil Mickelson changes his schedule again, will reunite with Tiger Woods at Genesis Open

Phil Mickelson changes his schedule again, will reunite with Tiger Woods at Genesis Open Phil Mickelson changes his schedule again, will reunite with Tiger Woods at Genesis Open

Column: Woods, Mickelson still going strong© The Associated Press FILE - In this Sept. 4, 2018, file photo, Phil Mickelson, left, listens to Tiger Woods speak during a news conference where they were announced as captain's picks for the 2018 U.S. Ryder Cup Team, in West Conshohocken, Pa. Woods and Mickelson have combined for 124 wins on the PGA Tour, and Mickelson believes they're not done. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum, File)

LOS ANGELES — The 144-man field at Riviera has 88 players who have combined to win 496 times on the PGA Tour.

Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson account for 25 percent of those victories.

No one should be surprised.

While too one-sided to be a rivalry, they have been a powerful one-two punch in golf. The same day Woods won his third straight U.S. Amateur right before he turned pro, Mickelson won the World Series of Golf at Firestone. Woods picked up his 80th career victory at the Tour Championship to end last season. Mickelson won his 44th at Pebble Beach on Monday.

Mickelson beats everyone but the dark at Pebble

Mickelson beats everyone but the dark at Pebble Phil Mickelson goes from a three-shot deficit to a three-shot lead at Pebble Beach when the final round is suspended by darkness. The wild day featured rain, sunshine and a hail storm that halted play and leads to first Monday finish since 2000

If anything raises eyebrows, it's that Mickelson believes their trophy collection will keep growing.

"I just believe that, even today, if I play my best, if Tiger plays his best, it's good enough to win on any week," Mickelson said. "And the challenge is there are so many great young players, and so many great players in the game today, that it takes our best to win. I just think that both myself and Tiger are going to have a really, really good year this year."

Nothing changes the outlook like winning, and Mickelson made it look easy on the weekend at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

He recovered from consecutive bogeys along the ocean, when the wind and rain were at their worst, by playing the final 26 holes without a bogey. Mickelson made an 8-foot par putt on the 17th hole Saturday. Otherwise, his longest putt for par during that stretch was 4 feet.

Tiger's involvement at the Genesis Open takes on new dimension as he hosts Celebrity Cup at Riviera

Tiger's involvement at the Genesis Open takes on new dimension as he hosts Celebrity Cup at Riviera Tiger got to get a little early practice for his Presidents Cup captaincy as he led his team of celebrity golfers to victory over Fred Couples on Monday.

But it's harder than it looks.

Mickelson turns 49 this summer, and one of the most underrated qualities has been his health. He revealed in the summer of 2010 that he was dealing with psoriatic arthritis. Otherwise, his injuries have been either minor (left wrist from Oakmont's rough in 2007) or temporary (broken leg from skiing in 1994).

"The challenge is getting myself to play my best," Mickelson said.

Woods is 43 with eight surgeries behind him — four on his left knee, four on his lower back.

His comeback last year is why expectations are so high now. Woods played well in Florida last year, took a dip in the late spring and then kept getting better until winning the Tour Championship the way he won so many other tournaments. He built a lead over 54 holes and played the kind of golf that was tough to beat.

He was at his best that week, and he had to be.

With the meat of the season about to begin, the question is how often they can be at their best against deeper and younger competition.

Woods finds inspiration in Mickelson's win at Pebble Beach

Woods finds inspiration in Mickelson's win at Pebble Beach Tiger Woods kept a close eye on Phil Mickelson's win at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am over the weekend in hopes of replicating his old friend's success. "My entire career, Phil will probably attest to this, we've always looked at the board to figure where one another's at," Woods told ESPN's Bob Harig on Wednesday. "So, we've always had that type of enjoyment of competing against one another. And to see what he's done or to see what he did last year in Mexico at 47 years old gave me confidence that I could somehow do it, maybe last year. And I was able to finally end my season just like he did with a win.

He seems to be doing just fine. Mickelson was poised to win the Desert Classic until he lost on a birdie at the last hole to Adam Long, who was No. 417 in the world ranking. He overcame a three-shot deficit against Paul Casey by closing with a 65 at Pebble Beach. In between was a missed cut at the Phoenix Open, where he changed driver in search of a few extra yards. Mickelson is always chasing distance.

His optimism comes from picking up 6 mph of swing speed for his driver, which he says rarely happens to anybody, let alone someone in his late 40s.

There was no secret involved.

"It's not really a secret. It was nine months of hard work," Mickelson said. "And then overnight I was swinging 6 mph fast. It was biometric swing studies, taking weaknesses and making them strengths. It was time in the gym. It was a whole workout process. It's been a lot of work, but days like this make it worthwhile."

Mickelson last year won the Mexico Championship for his first victory in more than four years, the longest drought of his career. Even when he wasn't winning, he was a runner-up at majors three straight years.

Mickelson delivers drama before rain stops play at Riviera

Mickelson delivers drama before rain stops play at Riviera Phil Mickelson opened with a par Thursday at the Genesis before wet conditions halted play at Riviera after less than an hour. Typical of Mickelson, it was no ordinary par. Mickelson drove into a bunker on the short par-4 10th when the horn sounded to stop play. Because the weather presented no danger, players were allowed to finish the hole. Mickelson went over the green into a slightly plugged lie in the bunker behind the green. Unable to control the spin, his shot rolled over the green into a third bunker. And right when it looked as if he was headed for a big number, Lefty holed his fourth shot for par.

Woods went five years without winning, but that was different. During a four-year stretch when he had four back surgeries, he played only 19 times on the PGA Tour and registered only one top-10 finish. To have won last year, to have risen to just outside the top 10 in the world, is cause for optimism.

But it's not easy.

"I've worked to give my body the best chance to do my job, but there are days when I just don't practice and I don't train. Those are days I've just got to rest," Woods said at Torrey Pines. "That's probably been one of the lessons I've learned through all of this, is there are days I just have to shut it down."

The Genesis Open is their first time competing against each other since the Tour Championship, notwithstanding the overhyped made-for-TV match they played with $9 million going to the winner (Mickelson). They are in elite territory financially, too. With his victory, Mickelson joined Woods as the only players to surpass $90 million in career earnings on the PGA Tour.

Mickelson says his goal of 50 victories might be tougher to achieve than he realized. What about $100 million?

"I just need one more match with Tiger and I should get there," he said.

His game is sharp is ever. So is the needle.

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