Phil Mickelson not only joined the chorus of voices welcoming Tiger Woods back to the PGA Tour, but he went solo in saying he wanted to go up against the former world No. 1 when he makes his comeback next month in Napa at the Safeway Open.
"I'm hoping we can get paired together," Mickelson told ESPN.com’s Bob Harig on Wednesday from Crooked Stick where he was preparing for this week’s BMW Championship.
"That would be really fun. I would love it," said Lefty, who has had his share of mano-a-mano pairings with his long-time rival. "It’s great to have him back, and hopefully he's physically able to practice the way he needs.’'
The golf world greeted Woods’ Wednesday announcement that he hoped to kick off what will surely be the final rebound from injury of his storied career with almost universal joy and anticipation. If all goes as planned, Tiger will tee it up at the Safeway, the first contest of the tour’s 2016-2017 campaign.
Assuming no glitches in his first start since the 2015 Wyndham Championship a year ago August, Woods said he would also start the Turkish Airlines Open in November and his Hero World Challenge in December.
Mickelson had already committed to the Safeway, hosted by NBC Sports lead analyst Johnny Miller, who commented that the event was "blessed" to have the two golfers on the tee sheet. Phil and Tiger will also meet up at the Ryder Cup later this month, with the former a member of the U.S. team and the latter one of captain Davis Love III’s vice skippers.
Until today's news, Phil Mickelson was biggest name in Napa field. Yep, upstaged by Tiger once again.— Ron Kroichick (@ronkroichick) September 7, 2016
"I think it's great; I don't know the state of his health. I haven't seen him,'' Mickelson said. "I'm looking forward to spending time with him at the Ryder Cup. I think that'll be great motivation for him. Plus, he'll have a week off."
While many in the golf world have suggested that fans and pundits lower their assumptions about how Woods will fare, Mickelson was not afraid to throw down the gauntlet to the 14-time major winner .
"We're always going to have high expectations because the guy is arguably one of the two greatest players in history, if not the greatest,'' said Mickelson. "Our expectations of him will always be high. It doesn't mean given all the health issues and challenges that he's faced ... it doesn't mean that's fair.’’
Fingers crossed for that Tiger-Phil pairing.