For what was believed to be the first time since the final round of the 2001 Masters, world No. 1 Tiger Woods paired alongside world No. 2 Phil Mickelson in the first round of the season-ending Tour Championship.
They shook hands at the first, shook hands at the last, and spoke very little in between.
It wasnt personal, just business.
And not that it was all business, either. The two walked in stride on a couple of occasions, with Mickelson doing most of the talking. The lefthander even offered a bit of levity prior to the beginning of the round.
While the first-tee announcer was reeling off Tigers list of 2002 accomplishments, Phil chimed in near the end with a facetious, All right, all right. Both men, along with the congested crowd, shared in laughter.
I didnt realize all that stuff had taken place this year, all of those victories. That was pretty impressive, Mickelson later said.
Neither played impressively Thursday, despite playing lift, clean and place. Mickelson shot even-par 70 under chilly, windy conditions at the East Lake Golf Club. Tiger had a 71, 1-over-par, to put him six shots back of leaders Steve Lowery and Vijay Singh.
Field aside, the two battled for the one-on-one lead throughout the front side. Mickelson birdied the second to draw first blood, but came up short of the green with his approach at the fifth and made bogey. Woods, on the other hand, bumped in a 3-wood from the fringe for birdie at 5 to take a one-shot advantage at 1-under.
The sixth proved to be a three-shot swing, as Woods 7-iron on the 164-yard par-3 flew the putting surface and caromed into the water behind the peninsula green. Tiger took double bogey to drop to 1-over, while Mickelson rolled in a 15-footer for birdie to get back to 1-under.
I got fooled, Woods said of his tee shot. The wind switched on me and it went downwind.
Phil hit a shot and he hit it harder than I did, hit the same club, and it came out pin-high. Just timing.
Two holes later, the two were again deadlocked. Woods made birdie from 10 feet at the seventh. Mickelson badly pulled a short-iron from the rough at the eighth and made bogey.
Each birdied the par-5 ninth. Tiger then bogeyed the 10th after missing the fairway and the green. He atoned with a birdie at 12, but for the third time on the day he followed up a birdie with at least a bogey, again missing the fairway and the green at 13.
Mickelson picked up a shot at the par-3 11th, and then parred his next four holes before failing to get up and down at 16.
Woods saved par at 17 when he had to play his second shot off the cart path. He missed the green, but made an eight-footer. He wasnt as fortunate at the last. His 3-iron off the tee at the 232-yard par-3 came up short of the green, from where he pitched to four feet, only to miss the putt.
Mickelson also bogeyed the last after pushing a 3-wood left of the green.
I really dont know when was the last time we played under tricky conditions like this, Woods said. But even with ball in hand, it was still tough to try and gauge what shot you are going to play.
Still, the two said they enjoyed one anothers company.
We dont get a chance to play with each other very often, said Woods. It was a lot of fun. We both didnt play that great, but it was a lot of fun. We thoroughly enjoyed it.
Said Mickelson: I enjoy playing with him because I respect his game and know that if I stay somewhere near his score, Ill be somewhere near the lead, most likely, and so there are a lot of pluses to it.
Woods will be paired with Bob Estes in Round 2. Mickelson will play with David Toms. The two went 2-1-1 as Ryder Cup partners this year.
He and I kind of feed off each other and play well when we play together, so I expect either one of us, if not both of us, should have a good day tomorrow, said Woods.
Full-field scores from The Tour Championship