Phil Mickelson will cross paths with Tiger Woods for the first time since “The Match” next week. Only this time, the two longtime rivals will have to share the purse with the rest of the field in the Genesis Open.
On Wednesday, the tournament announced Mickelson’s commitment to play in the Feb. 14-17 event hosted by Woods at Riviera Country Club. Perhaps, Woods will use his sway to have the two tee it up together again.
Regardless, the news came as a bit of a surprise for two reasons, mainly because Mickelson had previously said he wouldn’t play in the event when releasing the early part of his 2019 schedule last month. But also because Riviera, with its unforgiving Kikuyu rough, doesn’t fit the mold of tournament venues Lefty previously said he would concentrate on playing going forward.
“And I’m 48. I’m not going to play tournaments with rough like that anymore, it’s a waste of my time,” Mickelson said at the Safeway Classic in October after his poor Ryder Cup performance at the tight Le Golf National in Paris. “I’m going to play courses that are playable and that I can play aggressive, attacking, make a lot of birdies, style of golf I like to play.”
It was that thinking that undoubtedly played a role in Mickelson skipping his hometown event at Torrey Pines for the first time in 29 years. Then again, the new condensed PGA Tour schedule has a lot of PGA Tour pros adjusting their schedules, especially ones nearing 50.
Mickelson took down Tiger in the $9 million made-for-TV match over Thanksgiving weekend and nearly won his 2019 debut at the Desert Classic last month when he opened with a 60, but wound up finishing one stroke behind surprise winner Adam Long. After missing the cut in his second start of the year at last week’s Waste Management Phoenix Open, Mickelson decided to add another start in between this week’s appearance at Pebble Beach and his title defense at the WGC-Mexico Championship in two weeks.
Mickelson has played in the Los Angeles area event 17 times previously, winning in 2008 and 2009 while finishing runner-up in 2007 and 2012. The five-time major champ was T-6 at Riviera in 2018.