Make no mistake, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson aren’t done trying to win majors and the announcements made recently by both show that both men are serious about that pursuit.
Woods has decided to come out of the gate quickly and he is playing the Phoenix Open for the first time since 2001, where he was tied for fifth. Woods’s presence will add to the atmosphere at an event already known as the biggest party on tour. The Phoenix Open begins on Jan. 29 and ends Feb. 1 — Super Bowl Sunday in nearby Glendale.
“It will be great to return to Phoenix,” Woods said on his website. “The crowds are amazing and always enthusiastic, and the 16th hole is pretty unique in golf.”
Woods usually open the season at Torrey Pines and he will be there again this season next week after playing in Phoenix. Woods has had some of his biggest successes at Torrey Pines and it is the place where he won his last major, the 2008 U.S. Open. That win gave Woods 14 majors, a number he has been stuck on as he chases Jack Nicklaus’ record 18 major wins.
With a new coach and coming off an injury plagued season, it’s smart for Woods to get more competitive reps in ahead of the Masters in April. It’s inconsequential if Woods wins any event heading into Augusta but it is imperative he is playing well and confident in what he is doing with his new swing under pressure.
Mickelson needs a U.S. Open win to complete a career Grand Slam and is in the same boat as Woods as far as goals go. Adding a PGA Tour win or two would be nice to pad the overall total, but the only thing left to really bolster on the career resume for either two is major wins. Can Tiger catch Jack, will Phil finally get his U.S. Open after a record-number of second-place finishes?
For Mickelson to reach his goal he is taking the opposite approach as Woods and recently announced he will be playing less. Mickelson said he will miss the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am for the first time since 1997 and the Northern Trust Open at Riveria.
“Those are two of my favorite events, two of my favorites courses,” Mickelson said. “But with the kids in two schools with different spring breaks I’ll take that time off. They’ve accommodated my schedule enough over the years. It’s time for me to accommodate theirs.”
Phil needs to better regulate his playing schedule now because of his age (44), his health and to keep from wearing down. To that end, Mickelson has been working out, training program four days a week with trainer Sean Cochran.
“In the first five or six weeks I’ve had some immediate results,” Mickelson said. I’m getting lighter, developing more core strength and speed and increasing my ball speed.”
Majors are tough to win, Rory McIlroy seems primed for a big season, Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler are on the verge of a breakthrough and a number of other players (Jason Day, Bubba Watson to name a few) stand in the way. Tiger needs reps and a swing he trusts, Mickelson needs to be right mentally and physically and seeing both players realizing those needs shows they are serious about a return to the top in 2015.