Tiger Phil Ready to Play

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Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson finally sat down and talked Wednesday ' at least to the media.
 
Both players addressed the press at the Buick Invitational and tried to settle the public rumble that was created when Mickelson was quoted as saying in the recent Golf Magazine that Woods was playing inferior equipment.
 
We talked (over the phone) and we cleared the air. Everything is fine and no worries, said Woods.
 
'I did not mean anything mean or malicious by it, nor was I trying to make a derogatory statement towards anybody, but I still should not have gone in that area, said Mickelson.
 
It certainly was not meant to be a slap by any means. It was just not a well-thought-out statement.'
 
Woods said he took the context of the statement in stride and said it was Phil being Phil.
 
Phil can try and be a smart aleck at times, we all know that. I think that was one of those instances where it just backfired on him, Woods said.
 
We're here to play and compete and not worry about things like that.
 
But while The Great Equipment Debate might be settled ' for now ' theres still the question of one surgically repaired left knee.
 
Woods is making his 2003 PGA Tour debut after arthroscopic knee surgery on Dec. 12. Its his first competitive action in nine weeks.
 
I'm excited, excited to be back. I'm excited to get back out there and play again and compete, Woods said.
 
Woods has played only three full rounds over the past two months. He said he started hitting golf balls about four weeks after the surgery, but has basically been fine-tuning his video-game abilities.
 
Mother Nature hasnt helped Woods this week. He played the North Course ' which players will play in either the first or second round ' under soggy conditions Tuesday. Further rain prevented him from playing his morning Pro-Am on the host South Course Wednesday.
 
Woods added that he could have competed in the Mercedes Championships ' the only tournament he would have played prior to the Buick if not for the surgery ' but wanted to make sure he wouldnt re-injure himself.
 
We took the most conservative route, put it that way. The procedure that we did on the knee was conservative and so was the rehab, he said. We weren't aggressive with any part of the process at all, and I think that's one of the reasons why I feel as good as I do now heading into this week.
 
As for his upcoming schedule, thats up to his knee.
 
It's going to be a week-to-week trial and error and see if I can keep playing, he said. I know I'm not 100 percent yet, but it's pretty darned close. It's a heck of a lot better than it was last year, let me tell you that.
 
While Woods has been away, many of the upper-echelon players have experienced great success. Ernie Els won twice, while Vijay Singh and Davis Love III also prospered in victory.
 
Woods, who has topped the money list each of the last four years, is $1.8 million behind Els in earnings this season, but doesn't seem too concerned.
 
'His start is obviously pretty impressive, but also, I understand that he plays a limited schedule, just I do, so in essence, we are going to get probably about the same number of events, between 16 and 20 events,' Woods said. 'So it's not like he's going to come out here and play 30 events on our tour and probably no chance of catching him.'
 
One big-name player who has not made strides in Tigers absence is Mickelson.
 
Despite a pair of top-10 finishes at Phoenix and the Bob Hope, he has yet to contend on Sunday. He finished 64th at last weeks AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am thanks to a final-round 80.
 
In addition to his remarks regarding Nike, Mickelson was also criticized for opting out of the celebrity pro-am rotation at the Bob Hope, where he was the defending champion.

I don't want to put too much pressure on myself to say I have gotten off to a poor start. It's been a poor start off the course, no question, he admitted.
 
I'm not satisfied with the start, that's why I've got Rick (Smith, his instructor) here and that's why I'm working on it.
 
The 32-year-old said his early-season frustrations are due in part to his off-season training. Mickelson has been working with a personal trainer to improve flexibility and strength, and it has affected his swing.
 
I think the biggest change was the physical change, becoming a little bit stronger, a little bit faster. Once I implement that in with better timing, I think I'll be able to take advantage of it and play better than I have in the past few years, he explained.
 
Mickelson, along with Woods, has a prime past at Torrey Pines. Both are familiar with the venue from their junior days, and both have exceptional records here.
 
Mickelson, who was born in San Diego, won here in 2000 and 2001, while Woods, a near-by Los Angeles area product, was champion in 1999 and has never finished worse than fifth in five career starts.
 
Woods is also trying to keep alive his consecutive cuts made streak, which currently stands at 96.
 
It means a lot. I would like to get to 100, that would be nice, he said.
 
Related Links
  • Full coverage of the Buick Invitational
  • Woods and Mickelson on Sorenstam Playing the Colonial