Phil Mickelson happy to be paired with Tiger
Phil Mickelson couldn't be happier that his bid for an elusive US Open title - after five runner-up finishes - will start with a first-round pairing with longtime rival Tiger Woods.
"I get excited to play with Tiger," said Mickelson, who will tee off at The Olympic Club's ninth hole at 7:33 am (1433 GMT) on Thursday with Woods and Masters champion Bubba Watson.
"He gets the best out of me," added Mickelson. "I think when it's time to tee off on Thursday I'll be ready to play. One of the issues I've had this year, I've been a little mentally lethargic on Thursday and Friday. I won't be this week."
It would seem like Mickelson, 41, wouldn't need any extra incentive to focus at a US Open.
The Californian owns four major titles, but has never won his national open championship.
His five near-misses include an epic disappointment at Winged Foot in 2006, where he arrived holding both the PGA Championship and Masters titles and led by two shots with three holes to play.
A bogey at 16 and a double bogey at 18 helped hand the title to Australian Geoff Ogilvy.
Mickelson still cites that finish as the most heart-breaking of his US Open second places, which also include a one-stroke defeat to Payne Stewart in 1999 at Pinehurst, a runner-up finish to Woods in 2002 at Bethpage and a loss to Retief Goosen at Shinnecock in 2004 -- when Mickelson led by a stroke with two to play but bogeyed 17.
At Bethpage again in 2009, Mickelson shared the lead in the final round but saw Lucas Glover lift the trophy.
"I think it helps me," Mickelson said of the close calls. "Because this is a tournament where, if you look at my game from 20,000 feet, you'd say, 'Well, that's probably not the best set-up for the way he likes to play.'
"And yet, five times I've had opportunities, I've come close. It gives me the belief that I can compete and be in contention on Sunday in this tournament."
Over the years Mickelson has attacked the US Open with different strategies, from methodical preparation at the championship course to the decision one year not to carry a driver.
He'll have the driver in his bag this week, Mickelson said, but he doesn't expect to use it often.
Thursday will mark the first time Woods and Mickelson have been paired together in the US Open since 2008, when the US Golf Association made the pairings from the world rankings.
They last played together in the final round of the US PGA Tour event at Pebble Beach this year, where Mickelson claimed his most recent victory.
Apart from the intensity playing alongside Woods brings, Mickelson said he has another reason to like the pairing with the 14-time major champion.
"The one player I'm most concerned about if I play my best golf that may have a chance to beat me is Tiger," Mickelson said. "Sometimes we'll get a huge advantage in tee times, based on weather conditions or whatnot. If we're in the same wavelength neither of us will have a distinct advantage."
While the marquee grouping sparked plenty of conversation, Woods said he didn't expect a lot of small talk among the players.
"This is a major championship. We've got work to do," Woods said. "It's such a test playing in this championship.
"I think this is one of those championships that I think the guys talk the least to one another because it's so difficult."
US OPEN RELATED STORIES