PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – For the first time in 17 years, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson will play together at the Players Championship.
Woods, Mickelson and Rickie Fowler were announced Sunday as one of the two featured groups who will play together in the first and second rounds of the tournament.
It's a rare grouping for Woods and Mickelson, who, for the bulk of their careers, have been the two biggest draws in the sport. Typically, tournament organizers would have them on opposite sides of the tee sheet in the first two rounds so one would play in the afternoon on Thursday, the other on Friday.
"Now we're both later in our careers. It's fun for me to be able to have an opportunity to play with Phil the first two days. We don't really do this very often, unfortunately," Woods said. "The only time I can remember is the PGA and the U.S. Open in '08. Otherwise, it just doesn't really happen. And for me to be able to play with a person I've gone against for over two decades, it's a lot of fun."
Fun is the word that was used by both Woods and Mickelson when asked about the grouping. Tournament organizers hope that fun will translate to the galleries.
"I love that we're paired together," Mickelson said. "I think it's really fun. We haven't been paired together in years, and as I look at the cover of the newspaper and the pairing is on there and the excitement that's been going on around here, it gets me thinking, why don't we just bypass all the ancillary stuff of a tournament and just go head-to-head and just have kind of a high-stake, winner take all match."
Mickelson was joking, but was clearly enjoying the topic.
"Now, I don't know if he wants a piece of me," Mickelson joked. "But I just think it would be something that would be really fun for us to do, and I think there would be a lot of interest in it if we just went straight to the final round."
Somewhat lost in the mix is Fowler, the 2016 champion.
"They're definitely two very influential guys, and what they've done on and off the golf course," Fowler said. "It'll be a good time. It's going to be a little hectic out there. There's going to be quite a few people. I'm looking forward to it. May try and putt out as much as I can before Tiger does just so that I'm not hitting while the circus is moving on. But it's going to be fun."
The other group includes reigning FedExCup champion Justin Thomas and the two previous winners of the season-long competition, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy.
The last time Woods and Mickelson played together at the Players was 2001, when Woods won the first of his two titles at the event. The longtime rivals on tour have not been paired in any PGA Tour event since the PGA Championship four years ago. This will be the 22nd stroke-play event in which they play at least one round together.
According to PGA Tour officials, two more featured groups will be announced when tee times are released later this week.