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Tiger versus Phil - COPIED

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AUGUSTA , Ga. ' Jack had Arnie who begat Tom. The Red Sox have the Yankees. Nadal has Federer. Britney had Kevin.
 
It is the way of life, every alpha hurtling head-long toward its omega, the inevitable clashes completing the circle. But life, at least not the version that is played between the ropes on Sunday at major championships, doesnt follow a Star Wars script. At least not yet.
 
As much as we pine for a Tiger Woods vs. Phil Mickelson title bout this Sunday at Augusta National, the odds and history ' and every bookmaker with an ounce of common sense ' have another plan.
2008 US Open
Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson walk on the first green during the first round of the 2008 U.S. Open. (Getty Images)

Still more than 24 hours from the opening tee ball at the Masters and the rivalry talk has already reached a crescendo. And why shouldnt it?
 
Woods looks as imposing on two good legs as he did on one the last time he made a Grand Slam cameo nearly 10 months ago at Torrey Pines. Along the way he added a pair of respectable rehab starts in Tucson and Doral and another walk-off at Bay Hill to prove a point.
 
Mickelson has been just as brilliant, if not his signature combustible, in his two victories that included a Doral finish that was as much a testament to his determination as it was to modern medicine.
 
But its a collision course only if the waters contain just two ships.
 
We may covet the great Tiger-Lefty Sunday shootout, but the odds are probably better for a Van Halen reunion tour.
 
Its happened twice in a major, which, for the sake of historical arguments, is the only litmus test that counts. At the 1997 PGA Championship, both shot 75, both tied for 29th. Hardly the stuff of legend. At the 2001 Masters, Woods started with a one-shot lead on Mickelson and won the tournament, with Mickelson finishing three shots behind.
 
Theyve shared space on the same major leaderboard on Sunday, most notably at the 2006 Masters and 05 PGA Championship, but never nose-to-nose. Thats when it counts because that is when history is made.
 
I would love to be in the same group as him, if we are in the final group, Mickelson smiled. I dont want to be third off.
 
Woods, ever the pragmatist, is less concerned with a rival than he is results. Truth is he doesnt even rank Mickelson his primary rival over the years.
 
I would say the person Ive gone head-to-head with the most is Ernie (Els), Woods said.
 
Woods comment wasnt intended as a slight, only fact. As much as the machine would savor a Woods-Mickelson duel, to use a Georgia axiom, that dog just doesnt hunt.
 
Its nobodys fault, just the nature of a game that is played between the ears and between the gallery ropes, not nose to nose.
 
It is not like tennis where you have constant head-to-head matches, Mickelson said. You are always playing against the course and playing stroke play. Its funny how at the Match Play you feel a little bit more . . . confrontational.
 
There it is, you want a top card that features Ali and Frazier you convert every Grand Slam event to match play and relegate the 142 other odd professionals to the B flight. But thats not going to happen, nor should it.
 
In some ways history clouds the idea, if not the practice, of a great rivalry. We rehash the legendary rivalries of the past all the while ignoring the accomplishments of the players who were not among the Big Three.
 
We had a great group of guys, eight or 10, who no matter what tournament you played you knew you had to play great golf to win, Greg Norman said. What I see now is not eight or 10 guys, but two or three that you have to beat.
 
If history is any guideline, there simply isnt enough mojo in the cosmic tumblers to suggest a 1 vs. 2 Sunday finish is in the making.
 
Thats not to say a Woods-Mickelson Sunday duel wouldnt be the defining moment for both players careers, but not because they are currently ranked atop the World Golf Ranking.
 
No, a mano-e-mano bout would resonate because of what both players represent ' Woods, the tactician with the extra gear, against Mickelson, whose creativity and natural ability is sometimes overshadowed by an over-aggressive impulse.
 
Phil can come with 72 holes of the most unbelievable golf anyone in the world can play. When hes on, hes on, said Geoff Ogilvy, one of the most insightful players in the game. He can have periods where hes unbelievable, but he can also have periods where hes completely off the map. With Tiger, the intimidation is you know that its going to happen. You know hes going to play well.
 
Perhaps therein lies our desire for a true showdown. Right brain takes on left brain in an ultimate psychological clash. Its not a collision of the worlds best so much as it is the battle within. We all have a little Woods and Mickelson tucked neatly inside our psyche. Seeing it in action on HDTV with the most manicured 18 holes in the game as a backdrop would simply be the masterpiece of a generation.
 
Chances are Woods vs. Mickelson is not going to happen, and maybe thats OK. But it would be something.
 
Email your thoughts to Rex Hoggard
 
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