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Old 06-10-2008, 01:51 PM   #81
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Woods, Mickelson, Scott paired in Round 1 at U.S. Open at Torrey Pines



Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson will play together the first two rounds of the U.S. Open, a decision by the USGA to create equal footing for the highest-ranked players, but one that could turn Torrey Pines into one big traffic jam.


Woods and Mickelson, Nos. 1 and 2 in the world, will be joined by No. 3 Adam Scott.

The USGA will release the pairings Thursday.

Mike Davis, the senior director of rules and competition for the USGA, said the top 12 players will be grouped together and spread over the four various time slots -- starting on the first tee or 10th tee in the morning, and first tee or 10th tee in the afternoon.


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The biggest stars usually are dispersed among the morning and afternoon times, largely at the behest of television. Davis said the USGA has been thinking about a major change over the past few months and decided to give it a try.
"Why not put them in the same wave?" Davis said in a telephone interview from San Diego. "The heck with what TV wants. Let's do what we want for the championship."


The last time Woods and Mickelson played together in the early rounds of a major was the 2006 PGA Championship, which traditionally groups the three major champions of that year -- Mickelson won the Masters, Geoff Ogilvy the U.S. Open and Woods the British Open.

But that was at Medinah outside Chicago.

The U.S. Open will be held at Torrey Pines, where Mickelson and Woods have perhaps their strongest fan base. Woods is a six-time winner at the Buick Invitational and grew up 90 miles up the road in Orange County. Mickelson is the local favorite, a San Diego native who played high school matches at Torrey Pines and won the Buick Invitational three times.
Not to be ignored is Scott, a 27-year-old Australian with model good looks who often draws plenty of women in his gallery.

"This year we got to thinking, 'Isn't it kind of crummy that we've never had the two guys ranked 1 and 2 in the world in the same wave?'" Davis said. "Weather can affect outcomes in the U.S. Open. It could be windy in the morning, or firm in the afternoon."

The original thought was to keep Woods and Mickelson near the same time, but as Davis spoke to USGA executive director David Fay and other executives, they decided to go a step further.
"What's wrong with putting 1 and 2 together, given their background at Torrey Pines?" Davis said.

From there, they decided to involve the top 12. That means Ernie Els, Ogilvy and Justin Rose would be in the same group, while Steve Stricker, Jim Furyk and K.J. Choi would comprise another, and Vijay Singh, Sergio Garcia and Stewart Cink would be the other.

The U.S. Open traditionally groups the defending champion, the British Open champion and the U.S. Amateur champion. That would not be affected with Angel Cabrera at No. 22 in the ranking, Padraig Harrington at No. 14 and U.S. Amateur champion Colt Knost not in the field because he turned pro.

"If there was a right year to do it, this was it," Davis said, alluding to Woods' and Mickelson's history at Torrey Pines.
Woods and Mickelson played in the final group at Torrey Pines in the 2003 Buick Invitational, when Woods was coming off a two-month layoff from knee surgery. Brad Faxon also was in that group -- he was known as "Switzerland" that day -- and Woods closed with a 68 for a three-shot victory.

Adding to the hype is that Woods has not played since surgery on his left knee two days after the Masters.

But the super pairing has its risks.

Woods and Mickelson are the biggest draws, and Davis said traffic to the course and on the course could be a problem. There also is the possibility that everyone leaves when the stars are done.

"We all know how traffic can be in San Diego," Davis said. "That was a huge part of the equation. We all talked long and hard about it. And the end of the day, we felt we could make that work."
Davis said there was some trepidation among USGA officials that the idea would create havoc, but he felt it was worth a shot.
"In absolute honesty, it was never done for promotional reasons," he said. "It was done because these guys never get to play together. They always want them separate because of TV. We hope it's positive."

Tale of the Tape: Tiger vs. Phil
Since 2002, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson have played 10 competitive rounds together:
2008 Deutsche BankWoods (Rank)Mickelson (Rank)
Round 172 (73rd)70 (43rd)
Round 264 (13th)64 (4th)
Round 468 (2nd)67 (1st)
2006 Ford ChampionshipWoods (Rank) Mickelson (Rank)
Round 368 (1st)72 (6th)
2006 PGA ChampionshipWoods Rank)Mickelson (Rank)
Round 169 (10th)69 (10th)
Round 268 (5th)71 (10th)
2005 Ford ChampionshipWoods(Rank)Mickelson(Rank)
Round 466 (1st)68 (2nd)
2003 Buick InvitationalWoods (Rank)Mickelson (Rank)
Round 468 (1st)72 (4th)
2002 TOUR ChampionshipWoods (Rank)Mickelson (Rank)
Round 171 (15th)70 (9th)
Round 470 (7th)69 (5th)



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