Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods walk to the 7th tee during a Ryder Cup practice round on Sept. 25, 2018, at Le Golf National in Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, France.

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Liguori: Tiger, Phil Practice Together, But  Will They Actually Be Paired Together?

Ryder Cup Gets Underway Friday In France

Ann Liguori
September 26, 2018 - 1:48 pm

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France  -- Both teams played practice rounds Tuesday in preparation for Friday’s start to the Ryder Cup at Le Golf National, and two of the four captain's picks for the U.S., Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, played their practice round together. Woods is coming off his first win of his comeback season at the Tour Championship on Sunday, his 80th title overall. 

The fact that Woods and Mickelson practiced together set up questions and lots of conversation about the possibility of them being paired together during the competition, which hasn’t happened since 2004 at Oakland Hills Country Club in Michigan when then-Ryder Cup captain Hal Sutton took a tremendous risk and paired up the two superstars. There was one major problem: They weren’t too fond of each other back then. And it showed. They went 0-2-0 as a team, and Europe went on to crush the Americans 18½-9½.

Fast forward 14 years. Woods and Mickelson are now friends. And Mickelson credited working together in the last two Ryder Cups with helping to nurture their friendship.

“I think that when we started to really work together to succeed in the Ryder Cup, going back even four years ago and then at Hazeltine and last year at the Presidents Cup, those team events where we’ve worked together, I think we realized that we both have a lot more in common than we thought," Mickelson said. "And I think that we both have really come to appreciate working together to achieve things. I’ve really enjoyed my time with him. It’s really been fun.”

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When Mickelson was asked if U.S. captain Jim Furyk were to pair them together what their reaction would be, he replied: “I think we would both welcome it."

When asked if he thinks that would happen, Mickelson said: “I do have an idea of what Captain Furyk is thinking, yeah." But he wouldn’t say any more.

I personally don’t think it’s a good idea if they’re paired together. And I’d be surprised if that would be the case. With their leadership and experience, I think pairing Woods with Ryder Cup rookie Bryson DeChambeau and Mickelson with, say, Tony Finau, also a Ryder Cup rookie, is a better idea. Justin Thomas is also making his Ryder Cup debut. There are many nuances of Ryder Cup play, and the two veterans can impart their wisdom on the young guns.

Mickelson has played 45 matches in 11 Ryder Cup appearances, debuting in 1995. Overall, his record is 18-20-7 (wins-losses-halves). He does have a winning record in the Sunday singles matches at 8-5-1.

Woods has played in 33 matches in seven Ryder Cups starting in 1997. His overall record is 13-17-3. His last Ryder Cup as a player was in 2012, when he went 1-2-1 and Europe beat the U.S. by a point, 14½-13½.

In 2016, Woods served as a vice captain and was very involved in team strategy. The experience also helped him get much closer to his teammates, many of whom took the game up after being inspired by him.

I also think that neither may want to be paired together, perhaps saving the mystique for their Vegas matchup in November, when instead of being teammates, they will play head-to-head.

Woods didn’t have much time to do much after his Tour Championship win Sunday, as the team flew to France that evening.

Mickelson assessed: "This is the best I’ve ever seen him (Woods) swing the club, even going back to 2000, when I thought he was at his best. He’s striking it so solidly that nobody was surprised that played with him that he won, and I think that now that that first win is out of the way, I think he’s going to start rattling off some more.”

Follow Ann on Twitter at @AnnLiguori.