Tiger, Phil go head-to-head

2006-08-17 16:46
Chicago - The season's final major teed off on Thursday with a collision for the ages as the world's top two golfers, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, went head-to-head in the opening round of the PGA Championship.

Woods and Mickelson are the two headliners and either could lock up Player-of-the-Year honours with a victory at the 7 561 yard Medinah Country Club course, the longest in majors history.

"The course is fantastic," Woods said. "They've lengthened some holes and the greens have been redone but the golf course has a wonderful layout and shape to it. Most of the holes are doglegged. It is old and traditional and one of the neat courses we get to play."

Reigning British Open champ Woods and Mickelson, who captured the 2006 Masters, have combined to win six of the last 11 majors. The PGA Championship continues with the traditional pairing of the first three major winners of the year in the first two rounds.

"I just want to get the ball in the fairway," Mickelson said. "Medinah is such a long golf course that the extra length will come in handy for me."

US Open winner Geoff Ogilvy completes the dynamic trio as he is also seeking to make it a two-major season.

Starting on the 10th tee, Mickelson came out with plenty of spark on Thursday with a birdie on the par-five, 579-yard opening hole. Woods posted a bogey while Ogilvy matched Mickelson's birdie.

Big spectator market

Ogilvy said earlier that he is looking forward to playing with Woods and Mickelson and expected to feed off the energy of the large gallery following them.

"I am sure it will be a zoo. I don't know when the last time they played together in a big spectator market like this. It will be interesting to see how they get along with each other," Ogilvy said.

Woods and Mickelson do not enjoy a close relationship and failed to hit it off when paired together for the United States in the Ryder Cup.

The world's top two golfers have squared off in the last group in a major just once, at the 2001 Masters.

Woods is seeking his sixth win of the season and is coming off back-to-back victories in the Buick Open and last month's British Open.

Woods will also have his hands full with a strong field that includes defending champ Mickelson and international stars Ernie Els, Vijay Singh, Sergio Garcia, Colin Montgomerie and Retief Goosen.

The reigning Masters champion, Mickelson is looking to successfully defend a major championship for the first time in his career, while Woods captured the first of his two PGA Championships in 1999 at Medinah.

"It is my first time as defending champion of this tournament," Mickelson said. "It is weird to come and defend a title on a different venue, but also enjoyable."

Other top groupings sees Spain's Sergio Garcia going out with Els of South Africa and American Freddie Couples, while former winners John Daly and Singh play together.

European Order of Merit leader David Howell will have the company of US Ryder Cup captain Tom Lehman.

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