Golf: Tiger Woods' friend in need is a friend indeed

Tiger Woods (left) and Phil Mickelson talk on the 11th hole during a practice round prior to the start of the 2018 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 3, 2018.
Tiger Woods (left) and Phil Mickelson talk on the 11th hole during a practice round prior to the start of the 2018 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 3, 2018.PHOTO: AFP

LOS ANGELES• The most remarkable aspect of Tiger Woods' comeback does not relate to results. Not yet, anyway.

That Woods and Phil Mickelson once had one of golf's most intense rivalries is as well known as the mutual antipathy that existed while it was going on. In recent times, however, there has been a deep thawing of the pair's relationship.

And their press conference at TPC Sawgrass on Tuesday saw the latest round of mutual appreciation between the duo, who will be playing partners for the first two days of the Players Championship which starts today.

"Our relationship has certainly gotten a lot closer," Woods said.

"When I was trying to deal with the nerve in my back, trying to come back to play, he always texted me encouraging words... He offered numerous times to help.

"He's one hell of a competitor and it's always going to be a challenge to try to beat him."

Mickelson had earlier offered effusive praise of just how powerful the former world No. 1 was in his prime, with 14 Majors in barely a decade.

"It was the most remarkable golf in the history of the game and I think unrepeatable," said the five-time Major winner.

"I look at the 2000 US Open as being the benchmark, the greatest golf I've ever witnessed (Woods won by 15 strokes) and I believe ever has been played."

Woods, who has two Players victories to his name and last won in 2013, is playing a full schedule for the first time since a fourth back surgery in April last year.

He said: "I'm just so thankful to be able to have this opportunity again because I didn't know if I would ever have."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 10, 2018, with the headline 'Tiger's friend in need is a friend indeed'. Print Edition | Subscribe