Ahead of this week’s Masters tournament, Tiger Woods has paid tribute to long-time rival Phil Mickelson, following a rare practice round with his fellow countryman on Tuesday. Woods and Mickelson’s relationship has been strained over the years, due to an intense rivalry that dates back to the 1990s; however, the pair appear to have buried the hatchet, with Woods revealing that Mickelson had offered support during his recent period of ill health.
Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson have not exactly been the best of friends over the years, with a mutual frostiness that dates back to their disastrous pairing at the 2004 Ryder Cup. During the 2000s, the perception behind the scenes was that Tiger had little respect for Mickelson or his game, and this was a source of immense irritation for Mickelson.
That perception has now changed, and earlier this week Woods confirmed suggestions that the pair had grown closer in recent years and had even formed a strong friendship.
“Phil and I have been through it for so long and we have been together on these teams long enough,” said Woods. “And then when I got hurt and I had to take a different role on the teams, being assistant captain and really trying to help out on the side, how best I possibly could, Phil was great.
“He was trying to help me out when I was trying to make a comeback, my body wasn’t feeling very good, and our friendship has got stronger over the years. We have competed a lot of times coming down the stretch in events, and we were joking today about some of the thoughts that transpired here.
“We have gone through it a long time, and the better part of 20 years our friendship has certainly gotten a lot better, and I think it’s just age as well. We’re at the tail end of our careers, we both know that. He’s 47 and I’m 42, and we have had a great 20-year battle.
“Hopefully we’ll have a few more, but we understand where we are in the game now versus where we were in our early 20s, battling for who is going to be No 1, and that was then and certainly this is now.”
Woods has recently emerged as a surprise favourite for this year’s Masters tournament, following a convincing display at last month’s Arnold Palmer Invitational. Whether the 14-time major champion can do it again at Augusta remains to be seen, but something that Tiger has proven many times in the past – it that it’s never wise to bet against him.