2018 Ryder Cup: Tiger-Phil Pairing Looks Like a Sure Thing

Sep 25, 2018 12:07 PM EDT
  • Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson haven't been paired together at the Ryder Cup since their disastrous performance in 2004.
  • But Mickelson's comments on Tuesday make it seem as if the duo will be playing together this week in Paris.

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France — Call it a hunch, or at least an educated guess: For the past few months, I’ve believed there’s a strong possibility that Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson could become Ryder Cup partners once again this week.

On Tuesday, Mickelson did nothing to make me think otherwise.

Following Mickelson’s glowing comments about his burgeoning relationship with Woods and how well his teammate has been playing lately, I asked Lefty what his reaction would be if U.S. captain Jim Furyk wanted to pair them together.

“I think we would both welcome it,” he offered. He then paused for a beat, pondered the question and repeated himself: “I think we would both welcome it.”

When I followed with a question about whether they have an idea if this possibility will become a reality, Mickelson smiled and coyly replied, “I do have an idea of what Captain Furyk is thinking, yeah.”

If I previously thought Tiger and Phil might be Ryder Cup partners once again, I’ll now upgrade that stance and double-down on it: I think it will happen.

In fact, we might even be able to pinpoint when and where it’ll happen.

It would make more sense that they team up in the fourball — or best-ball — format, which would allow each of them to play aggressively and try to pile up some birdies.

Well, the opening fourball session is Friday morning — and if Tiger and Phil are already going to be paired in the morning session, Furyk might as well start the proceedings with some fireworks, negating some of the Europeans’ home-turf advantage by putting them out in the day’s first group.

This, of course, would be a reprise from 2004, when then-captain Hal Sutton paired Woods and Mickelson together to disastrous results, as they lost a pair of matches, immediately giving Europe all the momentum.

Times have changed, though.

First of all, Phil and Tiger are no longer being leaned on as the top players for the U.S. squad.

Pairing them together doesn’t automatically weaken other tandems, because there’s enough talent to go around.

Secondly, they would now — as Mickelson suggested — welcome the opportunity.

“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, and I think that we both have really come to appreciate working together to achieve things,” explained Mickelson. “I’ve really enjoyed my time with him. It’s really been fun.”

They’ve spent more time together this year, at least publicly, than perhaps ever before.

They’ve played multiple practice rounds with each other, including before the Masters six months ago. And of course, they have a scheduled match in November, where they’ll hit and giggle (and gamble) for millions of dollars between them.

If the writing was already on the wall, Mickelson colored it in using permanent marker on Tuesday.

Credit:

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods

Follow Jason Sobel on Twitter
@JasonSobelTAN

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