Tiger Woods vs. Phil Mickelson: Showdown at Augusta?

Joe MacDonaldAnalyst IApril 3, 2009

SAN DIEGO - JUNE 13:  Tiger Woods walks past Phil Mickelson on the sixth fairway during the second round of the 108th U.S. Open at the Torrey Pines Golf Course (South Course) on June 13, 2008 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Is this finally the year for a much-anticipated head-to-head showdown between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson at the Masters?

Woods, the undisputed No. 1 player in the world, no matter how close his eight-month hiatus has made the official world golf rankings, is coming off a dramatic come-from-behind victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.  It was his sixth title at Bay Hill and the 66th PGA Tour win of his career.

Mickelson, meanwhile, looked equally impressive in winning the World Golf Championships CA Championship at Doral, winning a final-round duel with up-and-comer Nick Watney. It was Mickelson's 36th career victory and second in a row after his win in Los Angeles in February.

Both players would appear to be at the top of their games, hitting enough good drives and quality iron shots to show off their unparalleled short games. Mickelson claims his short game has never been better, and Tiger, who says he worked harder than ever on his game around the greens during his layoff, was nothing short of lights out with the flat stick at Bay Hill. And nothing is more important at Augusta than a great short game.

Between them, they've won six of the last 12 Masters tournaments.  Mickelson was the champion in 2004 and 2006, while Tiger donned the green jacket in 1997, 2001, 2002, and 2005. 

Woods has a streak of four consecutive top-three finishes stretching back to 2005, including back-to-back runner-up finishes in 2007 and 2008. He's finished in the top five eight times in 12 appearances as a professional.

Mickelson has seven top-fives and 11 top-10s in 15 trips down Magnolia Lane.

With their combination of current form, tournament track records, and games suited perfectly to the Augusta layout, the 2009 edition of the Masters tournament could produce a classic confrontation reminiscent of Nicklaus and Watson in the '70s or Jack and Arnie in the 1960s.

A perfect storm is brewing. Now it's up to the two titans of the game to deliver something they haven't been able to do in 46 chances since Woods turned pro in 1996.  Go head to head at a major for 18 or even 36 holes to determine the champion.

It will be interesting to see who blinks first.