Tiger Woods is coming off a commanding win last week at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, where his seven-shot victory marked the fifth of his season. He’s No. 1 in the world rankings.
Phil Mickelson won the last major, taking the Open Championship last month with a come-from-behind final-round 66, the fifth major of his career. He’s No. 2 in the world rankings.
And Rory McIlroy is the defending champ as these men get set to tee off at the 2013 PGA Championship in Rochester, N.Y., at Oak Hill Country Club. He’s struggled mightily this season, but McIlroy remains No. 3 in the world rankings.
Can you imagine the ratings CBS would enjoy if these three are in contention this weekend in the season’s final major?
Woods and Mickelson are playing the best golf of their recent histories. Tiger hasn’t won a major since 2008, and he lost his spot atop the rankings in October 2010. But he regained the position this past March, and hasn’t loosened his grip since. Sure, he’s managed only top-six performances at the Masters and Open Championship, and a T-32 after tweaking an elbow injury at the U.S. Open, but he appears as if he’s on the brink of finally overcoming all the injuries and personal mishaps to collect a 15th major.
Many had written off Mickelson as a major winner prior to 2013, and patted themselves on the back when he tied for 54th at the Masters. But there he was leading the U.S. Open going into Sunday, and there he was giving up the lead late on his way to yet another second-place finish. That was supposed to be the nail in the coffin, but a resilient Mickelson showed up in Scotland a month later in preparation for the Open Championship. He won the Scottish Open, then carried his newfound links game over to Muirfield the next week.
Mickelson’s confidence is overflowing, so much so that he would relish a Sunday showdown in Rochester against Woods.
“I’m as motivated as ever to compete and to play and get the best golf out of me, to hopefully play against Tiger when he’s playing his best,” Mickelson said at his press conference this week. “That would ultimately be the goal — I can play as well as I can at the same time he’s doing the same. I would love that opportunity.”
Lefty likes what Tiger brings out of him.
“It’s just incredible what he’s accomplished with the number of wins, the number of majors and the consistency that he’s shown throughout his career,” Mickelson said. “But in the last five or six years, I’ve had some pretty good success head to head and I feel like he brings out the best golf in me. He’s a great motivator for me. He’s helped me work hard. He’s helped me put forth the effort to try to compete at the highest level year in and year out, and I’ve loved competing against him.”
Woods didn’t have as much to say, but did comment, “Phil and I have certainly battled in a few majors and a few tournaments here and there. We’ve gotten to know each other over the years by being on these teams each and every year.”
Woods and Mickelson in Sunday’s final group at the season’s final major would be a dream matchup, and an epic duel would add a new chapter to their rivalry. It almost feels like too much to hope for. But considering both men confess to being at the top of their games, it’s not that far-fetched.
Now, hoping for McIlroy to get involved too, that seems a bit greedy. But oh, the waves he would make if Tiger and Phil were paired on Sunday, yet McIlroy shut all his critics up by besting them both and defending his title.
This has the makings of an incredible PGA Championship.