CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- For the first time since 2001, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson will be grouped together at the Players Championship and will be joined by Rickie Fowler at the PGA Tour's signature event this week.
In 2001, Woods famously made his long "better than most'' putt at the par-3 17th during the third round with Mickelson as witness. Woods went on to win the tournament just a few weeks before completing the "Tiger Slam'' with a victory at the Masters.
Woods said he was looking forward to the opportunity to play with Mickelson.
"We don't get to do it very often," Woods said. "We are normally paired up on the weekend if we are both playing well, and even that's a rarity. I know they tried that first experiment in 2008 -- 1, 2, 3, we're out together [at the U.S. Open, where they were grouped according to the world rankings] -- and that was a blast for both of us. That was one of the very few times, if not the first time, we played together the first two rounds. We don't get the opportunity to do it very often. We've been going at it for the better part of over 20 years, and it's fun for both of us to be able to do that.''
Said Mickelson: "I love it. I mean, I love the chance. We don't get it very often. Rickie's a great complement to the group, and we're going to have a lot of fun."
Woods-Mickelson pairings are rare, especially in the first two rounds, when the PGA Tour or the organizing bodies of the major championships can set them up.
The last time they played together in a tournament was during the first two rounds of the 2014 PGA Championship, in which Woods missed the cut and Mickelson finished second.
Woods, 42, and Mickelson, 47, have combined to win 19 major championships and a total of 122 PGA Tour titles. According to the PGA Tour, they have been in the same group 32 times spread over 21 tournaments.
"The better than most'' quote is attributed to NBC analyst Gary Koch, who described the long putt on the island green as it tracked toward the hole and dove into the cup. Woods shot 66 that day on his way to his first Players title. He won the tournament again in 2013, which happens to account for his PGA Tour exemption status this year.
Mickelson was six shots back of Woods that day, shooting a 72.
"I just remember that was a tough stretch of years for me playing against him," Mickelson said. "It was some of the most impressive golf I've ever seen in my life and I think ever played."
Mickelson won the Players in 2007, and Fowler won it in a playoff in 2015.
This week's tournament, which begins Thursday at PGA Tour headquarters in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, is the last Players Championship to be contested in May. The event will move to March next year, three weeks prior to the Masters.