Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson – two of the biggest names in golf over the past 25 years – have at times been bitter rivals and throughout their long history as both opponents and teammates, the duo hasn’t always had such a chummy relationship.
Remarkably, the perceived animosity towards one another has bloomed into incredible respect for one another now that they’re nearing the end of their 20-plus years of competition. This includes an upcoming one-on-one, winner-take-all match that will air on pay-per-view.
Take a look at some of the best quotes from the evolution of their bromance:
With a combined 19 major championships and nearly a quarter of a century’s worth of competition between them, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods have a long and complicated history.
By the time Woods turned professional in 1996, Mickelson had nine wins under his belt. Still, by the end of his rookie season, Tiger amassed two victories and began to take the world by storm.
The following year, Woods won the Masters to become the youngest golfer to ever win a major championship. Mickelson, who is six years older, still had not achieved that feat.
Perhaps the true animosity between these two began on the final day of the same event four years later. By then, Woods had accrued five major titles, and Mickelson still had yet to earn his first.
The duo was paired in the final round, and Woods beat Mickelson by three strokes to complete the “Tiger Slam.”
Presumably tired of hearing about all of his rivals accomplishments, Mickelson jokingly cut off Woods’ first-tee introduction at the 2002 Tour Championship, and all Tiger could do was laugh:
In 2003, Mickelson insulted Tiger’s Nike equipment. “He hates that I can fly it past him now. He has a faster swing speed than I do, but he has inferior equipment. Tiger is the only player who is good enough to overcome the equipment he’s stuck with.”
Mickelson later apologised for his comments through a news release. “As I’ve said many times, I have great respect for Tiger. I also have respect for any manufacturer, particularly those that can put their clubs in the hands of the world’s best players… It was meant as nothing more than a positive comment on Tiger’s incredible talent.”
Tensions heated up even further the following year, when Woods and Mickelson were paired together for two matches at the 2004 Ryder Cup. They lost both.
In 2016, Mickelson revealed that they were notified of the pairing just two days before teeing off. “That gave us no time to work together and prepare,” he said.
In 2005, Mickelson had to slip the famous green Masters jacket onto Woods, but the following year the roles were reversed.
The pair was neck-in-neck for the next few years, but Mickelson enjoyed a decisive advantage once Woods’ extramarital affair scandal and subsequent injuries derailed his career in late 2009.
At the 2018 Masters, Mickelson reflected on that time: “When [Woods] was going through a tough time, I wanted to do whatever I could to help out, because oftentimes that’s when people aren’t there. I wanted to do whatever I could during a tough time, not just the good, because I’ve reaped the rewards during the good times and I’m very appreciative of what he’s done for me, my family, the game of golf.”
Source: CBS Sports
Woods expressed his appreciation at the same event: “When I was trying to deal with a nerve in my back and trying to come back and play and it wasn’t very good, he always texted me some really encouraging words.”
Source: NBC Golf
Mickelson and Wood’s relationship certainly warmed up from there, and the two have often expressed mutual admiration for one another in recent years.
“Over the course of my career I believe he pushed me to achieve a higher level of play,” Mickelson said of Woods in February of 2016.
“There is nobody in the game that I have seen that is remotely close to the level of performance Tiger was in his prime,” Mickelson said in the same interview. “Mentally, short game, or ball striking, I don’t think anybody matches him in any of those areas. And Tiger put them all together in one to create a career that is mind-boggling in the game of golf.”
Source: Washington Post
Though Woods did not play at the 2017 Presidents Cup, he went to support Mickelson and the U.S. team. After Lefty sank his putt on the 18th whole in his Sunday singles match, Woods offered him a congratulatory hug.
— Golf Channel (@GolfChannel) October 1, 2017
“I think the press has made [our rivalry] out to more than what it has been,” Tiger said after the event. “We’ve been friends for a very long time. We’ve gotten very close by being on these teams. We’ve played against each other a lot down the stretch, and we have both enjoyed it.”
Mickelson agreed: “Tiger and I have been good friends and have gotten along very well in these team events for many years now. Just because it doesn’t get reported or shown, is irrelevant. We’ve worked very well in these team events, and to share in our success has been really fun for us.”
“I know that I’ve appreciated the challenge of playing and competing against him, and I also appreciate the level of greatness that he’s achieved in his career, and I’ve also enjoyed the chance to play and compete with him and against him,” Mickelson said of Woods at the 2018 Masters. “And it has been tough dealing with as much failure against him as I’ve had, but I also enjoy the challenge.”
Source: CBS Sports
“Oh man, he’s very, very competitive,” Woods said of Mickelson at the same event. “He’s feisty. He’s determined. He always wants to win. It has served him well. He believes in himself an awful lot. And you see the chances he’s taken over the years, the reason why he does that is because he knows he can do it and he has that belief.”
Source: CBS Sports
“[Mickelson and I] have both done this throughout our careers,” Woods said a month later before the 2018 Players Championship. “We’ve always looked at each other and said, ‘where is he on the board?’ That’s what Arnold [Palmer] and Jack [Nicklaus] used to do all the time.”
“For most of our careers we were one and two in the world and we were on opposite sides of the draw with exact tee times on the opposite side,” Woods said. “Now we’re both later in our careers and it’s fun for me to be able to have an opportunity to play with Phil. For me to be able to play with a person I’ve gone against for over two decades, it’s a lot of fun.”
Source: NBC Golf
But it still came as somewhat of a surprise when the duo took played a practice round together at Augusta.
“Phil and I have a great banter,” Woods said. “We give each other the needle. We always have, but I think our relationship has certainly gotten a lot closer with me being a vice captain on the last couple of teams.”
That’s when Mickelson floated out the idea of a winner-takes-all head-to-head matchup with Tiger, but jokingly questioned whether “he wants a piece of me.”
Tiger smiled and quipped back: “[I’m] definitely not against that. We’ll play for whatever makes him uncomfortable.”
And so they made it official with a Tweet and scheduled a $US9 million head-to-head matchup for Thanksgiving weekend of 2018.
— Tiger Woods (@TigerWoods) August 22, 2018
With “The Match” closing in, the Phil-Tiger trash talk heated up.
The Match is coming to B/R Live on Nov. 23. pic.twitter.com/1XUutyMD6o
— Bleacher Report Live (@brlive) October 4, 2018