A rivalry renewed? Woods, Mickelson back on top of the rankings heading into PGA Championship

  • Article by: PAUL NEWBERRY , AP National Writer
  • Updated: August 7, 2013 - 2:45 AM

PITTSFORD, N.Y. — Here they are again, back at the top of the world rankings.

Tiger Woods, No. 1.

Phil Mickelson, No. 2.

Wouldn't it be something if they went out in the final pairing of the PGA Championship on Sunday, dueling head-to-head with a major title on the line, still the guys to beat after all these years?

Mickelson would certainly relish the challenge.

"I've always been a competitive person," Lefty said Tuesday, coming in from a practice round at Oak Hill. "I'm as motivated as ever to compete and to play and get the best golf out of me, to hopefully play against Tiger when he's playing his best. That would ultimately be the goal — I can play as well as I can at the same time he's doing the same.

"I would love that opportunity."

Both players are on top of their games entering the final major of the year.

Woods is coming off a seven-stroke win at the Bridgestone, his PGA Tour-leading fifth victory of the year.

Less than three weeks ago, Mickelson won the British Open with a dazzling final round at Muirfield.

While Woods is mired in the longest major drought of his career — more than five years — he's clearly bounced back from personal woes, a series of injuries, and major changes in his swing.

"I feel like my game's pretty good," Woods said.

Mickelson is playing with similar confidence, especially after claiming the claret jug.

"I'm more motivated than ever to work hard to succeed, because I can taste some of my best golf coming out," he said. "I can feel it."

Woods and Mickelson have never been especially close off the course, that sense of underlying animosity only adding to their rivalry. Also, it was a one-sided affair for much of the late 1990s and early 2000s, as Woods piled up major titles with staggering regularity while Mickelson developed a reputation as the best player without one.

But things began to heat up in 2004 when Lefty finally broke through to win the Masters. That began a three-year stretch where Woods and Mickelson combined to win six of the 12 major titles.

In 2005, Woods won the Masters and the British Open, while Mickelson closed the year with a victory in the PGA Championship. In 2006, Mickelson earned another green jacket (and should've won the U.S. Open, if not for an epic blunder on the 72nd hole at Winged Foot), while Woods took the PGA.

Things cooled a bit in recent years, as Woods went through his well-documented problems and Mickelson endured a six-year span with only one major title — the 2010 Masters. With Lefty moving into his 40s, Woods struggling to get his game and his life back in order, and a long string of first-time major champions stealing the spotlight, it looked as though the rivalry was fading.

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