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The first round Tiger and Phil ever played together was at the 1997 PGA Championship

By Daniel Wilco
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Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson's first professional round together was during the 1997 PGA Championship at Winged Foot.

That journey has included 37 rounds. In those, Tiger has scored better in 18, while Phil has come out on top in 15, and the two have tied four times. In total, more than 5,000 combined shots in PGA Tour events together, Tiger and Phil are separated by just 20 strokes (in Tiger's favor).

That was Tiger’s first-ever PGA Championship, and just the fifth for Phil. Phil had yet to win a major, while Tiger had captured his first at the Masters earlier that year.

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The two didn’t play together until Sunday. Leading up to it, Phil shot 69-69-73, and Tiger had posted 70-70-71. Both shot a 75 on a wet Sunday, leaving each tied for 29th place.

But they were far from the stars of the tournament.

Davis Love III had won 10 PGA Tour events, but in 38 majors heading into the 1997 PGA Championship, he was winless. Love had placed in the Top 10 in six of his last 11 majors, including two runner-up finishes.

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After shooting 66-71-66 heading into Sunday, Love approached the final green with the tournament all but locked away. That’s when the rain ceased, and a rainbow broke out, providing the perfect backdrop for a 15-foot putt to seal Love’s major victory.

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A few other notable names from the field:

Thomas Bjorn — this year’s Team Europe Ryder Cup captain — finished 8-over, tied for 45th place.

Tom Kite finished in fifth place, his third Top 10 major finish in 1997.

After winning The Open, Justin Leonard entered Sunday of the PGA Championship tied with Love at 7-under. But a 1-over final round saw him finish as runner-up, five strokes behind Love. Leonard would have two more runner-up major finishes in his career.

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In his 152nd major, Jack Nicklaus shot a 74-76 and failed to make the cut. In his next major, the 1998 Masters, he would finish tied for sixth — his first Top 10 finish in 32 majors, and his last ever. He would play 11 more majors, and only make the cut twice.

So yeah, the golf world has changed a bit since Tiger and Phil first played together. But what hasn’t changed is either golfer’s competitive spirit. They were also paired at the 2018 Players Championship. Tiger shot 72-71. Phil went 79-73 and missed the cut.

"I love that we're paired together," Mickelson said that week according to CBS Sports. "I think it's really fun. We haven't been paired together in years. As I look at the cover of the newspaper and the pairing is on there and the excitement that's been going on around here, it gets me thinking, 'Why don't we just bypass all the ancillary stuff of a tournament and just go head to head and have kind of a high-stakes, winner-take-all match?' Now I don't know if he wants a piece of me, but I just think it would be something that would be really fun for us to do. I think there would be a lot of interest in it if we just went straight to the final round."

Now that is an idea we can all get behind.