Only place Lefty, Tiger are together is US team photo

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Jim Litke
Thursday, September 30, 2010
— Remember the ill-fated pairing of Americans Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, the one that went down in flames at the Ryder Cup four years ago?

Well, don’t expect to see them playing together again anytime soon.

“Oh, yeah, I think there’s a great chance,” Mickelson said Wednesday, sarcasm practically dripping from every word. “Why don’t you just hold your breath and we’ll see till Friday.”

With two days left before the matches begin, indications are that U.S. captain Corey Pavin will put Mickelson, currently No. 2 in the world, with long-hitting Dustin Johnson. Woods is almost certain to play with Edgerton native Steve Stricker, an unbeaten tandem at the Presidents Cup.

“Because of that record, I think that partnership should not be split up. Now, granted, that was on U.S. soil, it wasn’t against Europe and now we’re playing Europe on their home soil. It’s going to be a much more difficult task, but,” Mickelson added a moment later, “I would be surprised to see those two split up.”

As for his own pairing, Mickelson and Johnson have built up a mutual-respect society based on some high-stakes practice rounds together. Those started shortly after Johnson made it through the PGA Tour’s qualifying school three years ago, and have turned into a sometimes-expensive game of can-you-top-this?

And not only does Johnson’s fearlessness intrigue Mickelson, he thinks the youngster’s length and accuracy off the tee is a big advantage for any partner.

“He could be the straightest driver I’ve ever seen. Now, granted, he’s hitting the ball longer than just about anybody on tour, but if you take the percentage of degree off line, he’s probably as straight or straighter than anybody else on tour,” Mickelson said.

“But he’s also 40 or 50 yards ahead of where the guys are that are leading driving accuracy,” Mickelson added. “I think that he would be a great partner for me either way.”

It’s been a strange year for Lefty, bookended by winning his fourth major at the Masters in April and a disappointing tie for 22nd among the 30 players who qualified for the season-ending Tour Championship. In between, as both wife Amy and his mother continued their recovery from cancer, Mickelson let several chances to overtake Woods at No. 1 in the world slip away.

For the first time since that inspirational win at Augusta, Amy Mickelson is scheduled to be at Celtic Manor to watch her husband play.

Woods and Mickelson had been Ryder Cup teammates three times before, but never played together until then-U.S. captain Hal Sutton paired them on opening day at Oakland Hills.

“They could be one of the greatest teams ever in American history,” Sutton said at the time.

But what followed left the U.S. team covering its eyes. Mickelson and Woods lost both matches that day and neither completely recovered. Mickelson has gone 1-6-2 since.

“Win or lose, the Ryder Cup has been nothing but an incredibly positive experience,” he said. “I certainly would like to improve on our record. I mean, the U.S. has not played as well as we would like, but we were able to pull off a win in the last Ryder Cup.

“We are currently holding the Ryder Cup and we brought it over here to show you what it looks like,” Mickelson said to laughter. “We are going to be fighting hard to bring it home.”

Last updated: 2:50 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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