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Tiger Woods Says He No Longer Has Back Pain, Discusses Phil Mickelson Friendship

Kyle Newport@@KyleNewportFeatured ColumnistApril 3, 2018

AUGUSTA, GA - APRIL 03:  Phil Mickelson (R) of the United States and Tiger Woods (L) of the United States walk onto the 13th green during a practice round prior to the start of the 2018 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 3, 2018 in Augusta, Georgia.  (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
Andrew Redington/Getty Images

The 2018 Masters has gotten off to an intriguing start for Tiger Woods

No, the actual tournament has not teed off yet. However, physically, he appears to finally be healthy. Not only that but, as Bob Harig of ESPN notes, Tuesday might have marked the first time ever—other than team events—that Woods and Phil Mickelson participated in a practice round together.

When asked about golfing with his rival, Woods had nothing but compliments for Lefty:

"He's very, very competitive; he's feisty, he's determined. He always wants to win. It has served him well. He believes in himself an awful lot. And you see the chances he's taken over the years, the reason why he does that is because he knows he can do it and he has that belief. And that's what has happened. That's why he's won so many tournaments, that's why he's won so many major championships, is that he truly believes he can pull it off. That's what you have to have. You have to have that belief.''

How shocking was this pairing? Even Rory McIlroy said, "I never thought I'd see the day," about the two playing together. 

Despite many battles on the course through the years, the two appear to be in a good place. Lefty noted that he is a fan of what his rival has done for the sport of golf.

PGA TOUR @PGATOUR

On Tiger ... "I've had respect and appreciation for him, for what he's done for the game, and I've benefited more than anyone else." https://t.co/JQICOzWopz

The two may be friendly now, but come this weekend, you better believe their only focus will be on winning the coveted green jacket.

That said, many wonder if this will finally be Woods' breakthrough tournament. He finished in a tie for second at the Valspar Championship in early March and followed that up with a tie for fifth at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. 

He credits his recent success to the fact that he is finally healthy, revealing that this is the best he has felt in "seven or eight years,'' per Harig:

"I'll be honest with you, it's crazy. I thought prior to the fusion surgery that that's pretty much it. I'll have a nice, comfortable, and great life, but I'll never be able to swing the club like I used to speed-wise, just there's no way, lower back fusion. But for some reason, I don't have any pain. Yes, I'm much tighter, but I don't have any pain. And I've had to really work on the strength and different ways. For some reason it's come back. I wish I could tell you, I wish I knew, but all of a sudden I have this pop and my body and my speed's back and my timing.''

If this is a new (and healthy) Tiger, the field better watch out. He already has four green jackets—and he's looking for lucky No. 5 this weekend at Augusta National.     

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