Tiger Woods vs. Phil Mickelson at Quail Hollow? Not So Fast

Michael FitzpatrickFeatured ColumnistApril 28, 2010

SHANGHAI, CHINA - NOVEMBER 08:  Phil Mickelson of the USA watches his tee-shot on the 13th hole as Tiger Woods of the USA looks on during the final round of the WGC-HSBC Champions at Sheshan International Golf Club on November 8, 2009 in Shanghai, China.  (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
Andrew Redington/Getty Images

“The world’s top two players will battle it out it this week in Charlotte.”

“Woods and Mickelson will face off at the Quail Hollow Championship.”

These are just some of the numerous advertising messages being distributed to promote this week’s Quail Hollow Championship.

Now, it’s incorrect to say that this constitutes false advertising, because there is the possibility of a Woods vs. Mickelson showdown on Sunday afternoon, but for now, let’s just label it as “hopeful” advertising.

Golf is different than most other sports in that head-to-head battles rarely take place on a consistent basis, even when it comes to the top players in the world.

When the Lakers face off against the Cavaliers, it’s quite obvious that we will see a head-to-head battle between LeBron James and Kobe Bryant, unless one of the two is out with an injury.

When we watch the New York Mets take on the St. Louis Cardinals and Johan Santana is on the mound, we know that we will see a showdown between Santana and Albert Pujols during the course of that game.

That’s simply not the case in golf.

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Although Woods and Mickelson win more often than most, there are literally 160 players in the field each week that have a legitimate chance to win if they get hot.

Over the past four years, despite being far and away the best two golfers on the face of the planet, how often have we actually seen Woods and Mickelson go head-to-head on Sunday afternoon with the tournament on the line?

Well, we have the 2007 Deutsche Bank Championship, where Woods and Mickelson were paired together in the final group on Sunday, and Mickelson fired a 66 to win the tournament by two strokes.

The next battle didn’t take place until the 2009 Masters, albeit Woods was out of action for half of the 2008 season with a knee injury. Despite teeing off more than an hour before the leaders on Masters Sunday, Woods and Mickelson set off a slew of fireworks on the front nine, but each player limped home down the stretch, and wound up finishing several strokes behind the leaders.  

The next “showdown” took place at the 2009 Tour Championship. Although they were not paired together, Woods began the day with a two-stroke lead over Mickelson, who was paired in the group directly in front of Woods.

Mickelson blistered East Lake with a closing round score of 65, and overtook Woods for the Tour Championship title, although Woods still had the last laugh that afternoon when PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem handed him a $10 million check for winning the FedEx Cup despite not winning the Tour Championship.

Next came the 2009 WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai, China.

Both players were paired together on Sunday, but while Mickelson was dropping putts from everywhere but the tee box, Woods looked as if he would have rather been anywhere but out on the golf course, competing for an $810,000 first place prize. 

Mickelson pulled away with a 69 while Woods quietly limped home with a sloppy 72.

So let’s see, since 2007, Woods and Mickelson have been involved in legitimate head-to-head battles a grand total of four times, if you can even consider the 2009 Tour Championship a head-to-head battle since the two were not paired together.

Both players simultaneously compete in around 15 events each year.    

Even when overlooking the entire 2008 season due to Woods’ injury, in close to 45 events both players have attended since 2007, they have truly faced off against each other only four times.

So what does that mean?

Well, it means that there’s about an eight percent chance that Woods and Mickelson will be involved in golf’s version of a smack down come Sunday afternoon in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Of course, we may see Woods and Mickelson battle it out on Sunday, but chances are that we won’t.

For more PGA Tour news, insight and analysis, check out The Tour Report .

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