Tiger takes up Mickelson challenge in Players pairing

Tiger Woods commits to 2018 British Open at Carnoustie

But when your first name is Tiger and you played an 11-year stretch (1997-2008) of golf like nobody who ever lived, there's a natural tendency to think Woods' results will match his inner resolve to be great again.

After a 346 yard drive on the 523-yard par-5 16th, Tiger Woods chipped his third shot to 6 feet, which he rolled for one-putt birdie on the hole.

After playing his first 13 holes in even par, the 47-year-old's day started to unravel beginning on the par-4 14th, where he almost pushed his tee shot into the water left, laid up sort of the green, then took four more strokes to find the bottom of the cup. His choice of attire yelped an unfortunate reality for Mickelson on this course as he stares at his fifth missed cut in six years: Business as usual for Lefty at TPC Sawgrass.

Mickelson spoke recently of his wish that he and Woods simply "bypass the ancillary stuff" at the Players in favour of a head-to-head matchup.

"I'm more frustrated in the fact that I had some shorter irons in there and I didn't hit any of them close", Woods said. "If we were able to put all of our facets of the game together I think there would be a lot more tournament winners out here".

"I think nobody does kind of slightly overweight middle-aged guy better than me, and this says exactly who I am", he said. "I was concerned about this being an issue. It's just "come and get me".

The same threesome will be back for a Friday morning encore, when Woods expects them to strike some better notes.

Woods clipped Mickelson by shooting an even-par 72 to Lefty's 79 (!), which means the all-time record between those two when playing in the same group is now even (15-15-3).

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"I feel like I have my playing feels back". "And I just kind of ran out at the end".

"Boy, it was nice to turn the round completely around there", he said, before assessing the gallery.

"I was looking forward to [playing with them] and definitely enjoy it".

Woods then got under the card with a delightful pitch to three feet at the 12th and, although he bogeyed the 15th, he made a good four at the next to return to one under.

Getting in contention this week is going to take a lot of work when Woods, Mickelson and Fowler tee off on the 10th hole at 8:27 a.m. Friday.

Dustin Johnson, his world number one ranking under siege, took advantage of flawless morning playing conditions to charge into a share of the first-round lead at the Players Championship on Thursday.

"Tomorrow they will be out early, I'm sure, and they will be into it and it will be fun for Phil and Rickie and myself", Woods said.

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