There’s no doubt Tiger Woods is aware of it also. He has to finish fifth or better to keep it.
“I’ve had it happen before,” Woods said, noting that both David Duval and Vijay Singh took the spot from him briefly. “The whole idea to be No. 1 and to continue being No. 1, you have to win golf tournaments. And I haven’t done that in a while.”
The No. 2 had a different view.
“It’s certainly something that I have been striving for, but have not achieved yet,” Mickelson said about the top slot. “It would mean a lot to me, but for me to accomplish that, I can’t focus on that.”
What Mickelson did reveal is that having Tiger Woods elevated his game, and that may be what leads him to a No. 1 position, depending on how Woods plays.
“As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to appreciate all that he ( Woods) has done for the game of golf and me in particular,” Mickelson added. “I’ve also found out that I’ve needed him to help me get my best golf out, and he has pushed me to work harder, and he has pushed me to become a better player, and I get motivated when he’s back in the field.”
Mickelson said that beginning in 2007, for a number of reasons that he would not name, he found he was able to go head-to-head with Woods and play his best with Woods in the picture.
Mickelson now works with Butch Harmon, Woods’ early coach. One can only speculate that there was some insight passed on from teacher to student.
As Mickelson heads into his 40s after an early June birthday, he believes he has a lot of good golf ahead of him, if he is smart about how he approaches his practice and preparation.
“I’ve got to realize that after hitting golf balls for 30 some-odd years that there’s going to be a physical toll, so I’ve got to be aware of that,” he explained. “I’ve been working with Tom Lafountain to make sure my back is healthy.”
Mickelson also works out with Sean Cochran to maintain physical strength. He’s trying not to carry any excess weight.
“Things like that actually get more to the forefront of my head as I get older, because I want to continue to play golf for many years,” he added.
For his part, Tiger Woods is still trying to get his game back.
He is working to perfect his posture, and in his words get, “his takeaway a little bit more organized.” He is concentrating on having enough width in his swing.
“As we all know, I tend to get a little bit narrow at times, and making sure that gets organized again so I can get the ball up,” he said.
The fade, he said, is his go-to shot when he is having trouble managing his game around the course.
Woods said practice has provided a respite after the last few months of controversy.
“Practicing has been a place where I can get out there and enjoy it again, and get out there and work,” he said. “I’d much rather practice than play any day. That’s been my entire life. That hasn’t changed, and it feels good to get out there and be able to practice all day.”
Two tough guys are set to battle it out this week, and in addition to a championship on the line, the No. 1 ranking will be at stake.
Who will it be?
Tiger, or Phil?