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

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

Not so fast.

While Woods hasn't won a major title since his one-legged performance at the 2008 U.S. Open, he's reclaimed his top spot in the world rankings with more PGA Tour victories (eight) than anyone over the last two years. He's also been a consistent contender in the biggest events and it seems just a matter of time before he claims major No. 15.

Mickelson has addressed two of the biggest flaws in his game, a shaky putting touch and wayward shots off the tee — so much so, that he now considers them to be strengths.

In June, there was another close-but-no-cigar call in the U.S. Open, where he was runner-up for a record sixth time. Then, he conquered Muirfield with one of the greatest clutch rounds in major championship history, a 5-under 66 on a course that was about as hard as a paved road.

The 43-year-old Mickelson can sense another golden era in his career about to unfold, even though he's at an age when most players are beginning their slow, steady spiral toward the senior tour.

"I feel as though I started to play my best golf in the last four, five, six months," he said. "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 even more confident in his game when he goes against Woods.

"He brings out the best golf in me," Lefty said. "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."

Woods isn't quite as exuberant when the subject turns to Mickelson.

When asked about their relationship Tuesday, Woods meandered through a drawn-out answer that didn't say much about anything until he summed up tersely, "It's been a lot of fun."

If Woods should go through another year without a major title, he doesn't think it diminishes what he's done in 2013 — or might still do, considering the Tour playoff and championship are still to come.

Some might perceive that Woods has lowered his standards just a bit. After all, the four majors have always been the focal point of his season, with Jack Nicklaus' record 18 titles the end game he was striving to reach. He's been stuck on 14 for a while, and each passing year makes it a little more likely that he won't beat the Golden Bear's mark.

"I think it's been a great year so far for me," Woods said. "Winning five times, and you look at the quality of tournaments I've won, a Players and two World Golf Championships in there, that's pretty good."

You know what would be even better?

Woods vs. Mickelson on Sunday, with a major title on the line.

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