The Players Championship wants to attract attention. It likes to create drama. If you haven’t heard, there’s an island green sitting, waiting for the players at 17. Rinse one — or four in Bob Tway‘s case in 2005 — and you’ll hear the groans from the fans and the sound of someone else cashing the winner’s check. Stuff one close — like Sergio Garcia did in the 2012 playoff with Paul Goydos (after Goydos’ ball went in the water) or like Rickie Fowler did three times in an hour (one in regulation, twice in the playoff to win in 2017) — and people will remember it for a long, long time.
So it shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that the Players Championship made some noise earlier this week when it announced Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson — oh, and Fowler, too — will be paired together for the first two rounds this week. The tournament committee wasn’t done either. Because every main event needs an undercard, it put Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas together.
Nothing against those three, but let’s be honest: All eyes will be on Tiger and Phil. (Oh, and you too, Rickie.) It’s just the way things work.
Tiger and Phil have met on the first tee 32 other times in PGA Tour stops, most recently at the 2014 PGA Championship.
Looking for someone to have a big advantage over the other? Well, stop. It’s incredibly close.
Scoring average when paired together: Woods 69.41, Mickelson 69.66
Number of times Mickelson has shot the lower score: 15.
Number of times Woods has shot the lower score: 14.
(For those who need a break from the math, that makes three times the two have shot identical numbers.)
Here’s the full breakdown:
What does this mean for Fowler?
Most times, Fowler is a main attraction, followed by large crowds. In this threesome, he’s the other guy. Fifteen times, Woods and Mickelson have gone out as a twosome. Seventeen times they’ve had company. While you’d think the third person in the group would be impacted by the circus around them, that hasn’t been the case.
The third in the group has averaged 71.06. The best of the bunch was Vijay Singh, who threw a 66 at Woods and Mickelson in the second round of the 2007 Deutsche Bank. He still didn’t beat Woods and Mickelson, who both fired 64s that day. Bubba Watson had the worst day with Woods and Mickelson. In the 2012 U.S. Open at Olympic Club, Watson, who had won the Masters two months earlier, shot 78 en route to a missed cut. At least he had company in his struggles. Mickelson shot 76 that day, while Woods posted a 69.