Things look to be heating up between two of history’s greatest golfers. As the last major of the season begins tomorrow at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, New York, both Tiger Woods
and Phil Mickelson
are looking to build upon their recent triumphs. Translation - we could be in for quite a showdown between two of the PGA Tour’s most successful veterans.
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For Mickelson, the PGA Championship represents a chance to win back-to-back majors, while Woods is hoping the momentum from his win at Firestone on Sunday will carry on and translate to his first major win since 2008. 43-year-old Mickelson admitted at a packed press conference on Tuesday that the 37-year-old Nike player helps to boost his own game.
“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.”
With Woods adding that playing with the older Callaway player has “been a lot of fun.” We can’t wait to see what these two get up to this weekend and who comes out on top!
As the “friendly” race between the world’s number 1 and number 2 players intensifies, we’re taking a look at the rest of the lineup set to tee off this Thursday at Oak Hill. From the last chance heroes to this season’s unstoppable power players, here’s our rundown on who to watch from the veteran professionals to the newbies setting the greens alight!
Nike's Spread Bet Between Woods and McIlroy?
Woods is coming off a brilliant performance at the Bridgestone Invitational this past weekend. After a magnificent 61 on Friday, the 37-year-old swept away the competition in Ohio, leading him straight to a seven-stroke victory, his fifth of the season and the eighth time Woods has won the tournament. Leaving golfers like Ian Poulter
to comment that Woods “humiliated the field” and Justin Rose
to observe, “He battered us.”
The American is now a man on a mission ready to recapture the fire he was exhibiting early in the season before an elbow injury seemed to sideline his game. The chase for his elusive 15th major win is something Woods will be surely looking to conquer at Oak Hill.
“Do I want it any more? Each and every major, I always want them. I've been successful 14 times, and, hopefully, next week will be 15,” Woods said after his win on Sunday.
Alongside Woods, Nike has another top player in the running in the form of last years PGA winner Rory McIlroy. With both players having struggled to capture a major win this season, the PGA Championship is their last hope for success and the final opportunity to silence their naysayers.
So what does the PGA Championship mean to McIlroy? It was here, last year that the young golfer truly began to shine. Winning his second career major by a record-breaking eight strokes, giving the golfing world someone new and exciting to talk about. McIlroy went on to end the 2012 season as the top money earner and world number one.
But since signing with Nike in November (he was previously with Titleist), many believe that the 24-year-old’s game has been off. Most recently missing the cut in both the Irish Open and the Open Championship at Muirfield last month. The question that needs answering now is what exactly has happened to the player that showed so much promise just 12 months ago?
Whether it is distractions off the course or an adjustment to his new equipment, McIlroy is confident he can get back to his former glory. Telling the press at the Bridgestone Invitational, “I actually feel I'm in better spirits about my golf game this year than I was this time last year. I was searching and really trying to figure out what I needed to do with my golf game to get it back where I wanted.”
“This year I definitely don't feel like I'm searching for as many answers. I don't feel like I'm looking for as many things and it's just a matter of letting it all happen on the golf course.”
Adding, “It's definitely close. It's just a matter of it all clicking into place and whether that's over one round or one week or whatever it is, I definitely don't feel like it's too far away.”
Perhaps the PGA Championship will be the place where McIlroy and his clubs finally click!
Callaway Want More of Mickleson's Renaissance Magic
For years Phil Mickelson has been on the cusp of golfing greatness. He would have good years followed by not-so good years. Leaving many in the golfing community to label the Callaway player, “streaky.” Something, it seems, has changed in the last few months as Mickelson’s game has become completely switched on, showcasing the golfer’s amazing form and outstanding putting ability.
Last month Mickelson finally conquered a British win with a gorgeous victory at the Scottish Open. While most players were taking a break the week before the Open Championship, Mickelson thought the “practice” at Castle Stuart might help. It would seem his logic was spot on. As the joy from this win was quickly followed by an incredible major performance at Muirfield that saw the 43-year-old victorious on the Sunday, three-strokes ahead of the competition and the only player to finish under-par.
While many in his age bracket are starting to slow down or have already reached the pinnacle of their careers, Mickelson feels like he’s just getting started.
“I feel as though I started to play my best golf in the last four, five, six months,” he said on Tuesday. “I feel like now the major championships are possibly the easiest ones for me to be in contention and maybe even win, because of those weaknesses becoming strengths.”
Mickelson is now in the chase to secure the difficult feat of back-to-back major wins. An honour held by only three other golfers- Woods, Padraig Harrington
and Nick Price. If his performances of late are anything to go by, Mickelson is definitely one to watch out for come Sunday.
Who Else To Consider? Statistically… The Young Guns
In the last three years all the PGA Championship winners have been in their 20s. Is this a trend likely to stay in place for 2013? There are five players in the official top 20 World Ranking that are in this specific age bracket. We’ve already looked at McIlroy, but that still leaves, Jason Day
, Dustin Johnson
, Charl Schwartzel
and Keegan Bradley. With the exception of McIlroy and Schwartz, none of these players have yet won a major and Johnson is only one to have won a tournament on the PGA Tour this year.
Leaving us to wonder if just as the Open championship continued its pattern of 40-something winners last month, will Oak Hill be conquered by yet another young gun?