2013 Presidents Cup: Is It Time for Another Tiger Woods-Phil Mickelson Pairing?

Michael FitzpatrickFeatured ColumnistOctober 1, 2013

NORTON, MA - AUGUST 30:  Tiger Woods (L) and Phil Mickelson of the USA walk on the 12th hole during the first round of the Deutsche Bank Championship at TPC Boston on August 30, 2013 in Norton, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson have never been overly fond of one another; that much has been evident for more than 15 years.

They are certainly civil to one another. They don’t often go out of their way to criticize each other, but you will also never see them going out to dinner or even communicating very much off of the golf course.

While the media has a tendency to over-dramatize the relationship between Woods and Mickelson, let’s just say that these two men have never been accused of being great friends.

This type of friction is almost inevitable when considering that these two men are far and away the best golfers of this generation and have for decades been competing against one another both on and off of the golf course.

Add in some distinct personality differences and it should come as little surprise that Mickelson and Woods have never been the best of friends.

Although Woods and Mickelson have only been paired together twice during team events (both times at the 2004 Ryder Cup), perhaps we have been underestimating the negative impact that this rivalry has had on the entire American team for more than 15 years now.

Woods and Mickelson are the leaders of the American team and have been for quite some time.

Even going back to the early 2000s, while these two men were not the most veteran players on those teams, they were still looked up to as leaders based on their accomplishments on the golf course and their level of celebrity off of the course.

As with any team, players look up to leaders. They want to learn from them and form some kind of relationship or bond with players that they have admired and looked up to for most of their careers.

But when the two undisputed leaders of the team are not overly fond of one another and cannot seem to play together, an awkward atmosphere begins to form that can quickly reverberate throughout the entire team.

It has been 10 years since Woods and Mickelson have been paired together at Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup.

They never sit together during opening ceremonies and gala dinners.

If you have ever seen a U.S. team press conference at either the Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup, you will almost certainly see Woods and Mickelson sitting at opposite ends of the podium.

Heck, most team captains even separate their groupings out on the course.

The fact that the two best players on the American side, and the players that are most admired by their peers, cannot play together and don’t particularly like one another has not been good for the team and has likely caused the rest of the American side to feel as if they are walking on egg shells all week long.

This type of silent friction can create a toxic atmosphere where players have to choose between being either a Woods guy or a Mickelson guy, or they might make a conscious effort not to be seen as leaning one way or the other. All of this is just an added form of stress during what is already one of the most stressful weeks of any golfer’s life.

Think about this in the context of another work environment.

If you are on a team at work and two senior members of your team simply do not like each other and cannot work together on projects, what kind of atmosphere does that create for the rest of the team?

You may personally get along well with everyone on your team, but the friction between those two leaders will always create a palpable awkwardness for everyone else on that team.

Woods and Mickelson might be quite civil with one another, but the mere fact that some form of tension exists between these two larger than life teams leaders winds up creating an atmosphere that is just a little bit more tense and awkward for the rest of the team. This is, again, an unnecessary distraction during what is already an incredibly tense week of golf.

This has been happening on at least some level within the American teams for more than a decade now and it is time for it to end.

Back in 2004, when Ryder Cup captain Hal Sutton paired Woods and Mickelson together, it was nothing short of a disaster. The two men barely acknowledged each other throughout their matches, and Woods stared down Mickelson as if he had three heads after watching Mickelson send his tee shot off of the planet on the 18th hole at Oakland Hills, all but assuring that they would lose their match to Darren Clarke and Lee Westwood.

But that was nearly 10 years ago and both men have matured since that time.

Woods and Mickelson are a bit older now.

Both players have become comfortable with their career accomplishments and their place in the game.

Their relationship has also appeared to have softened a bit in recent years; not to the point where you will see them vacationing together, but to the point where they might have a brief conversation or even an occasional moment of laughter on the range or in the locker room.

Mickelson and Woods will likely be Ryder Cup captains at some point and it’s quite possible that Mickelson could even captain a team that Woods is a member of.

It’s time to put this thing to rest.

Jack Nicklaus never had a problem playing alongside his biggest rivals in team competitions. He went 9-1-1 in team competitions while playing with Tom Watson, Arnold Palmer and Tom Weiskopf.

While Woods and Mickelson may possess games that are not overly compatible to one another in team competitions, it’s time for Fred Couples to pair these two men in at least one four-ball match this week.

Woods and Mickelson are the clear leaders of this American team, and if Couples has the spine to pair these two together sometime this week, Woods and Mickelson must finally put any tension that exists between one another to bed for the good of the team.

It’s time for the two best players of this generation to come together and unify this American team; and what better way to do that than to go out and win a match together?


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