Tiger Woods has been a rival for over two decades. Their love-hate relationship can be well documented.
In practice rounds ahead of the 1998 Nissan Open, the pair in their 20s agreed to a $500 bet. The winner took all the cash. By the end of the round, Mickelson was the victor and celebrated by placing photocopies of his five $100 bills into Woods’ locker with a note that read: “Just wanted you to know Benji and his friends are very happy in their new home.”
The two wouldn’t play a practice round together again until 20 years later at the 2018 Masters. What followed was one of the sport’s greatest rivalries. But while it was bitter at times, tensions didn’t always boil over for the reasons you’d expect.
Butch Harmon, the legendary golf instructor, recalls a funny story about the Augusta locker-room rivalry that involved a half-naked player with a sandwich.
“It’s a small locker room If you’ve ever been in it,”Harmon was recalled by the Fore Play Podcast. “There are only three tables in it and so Phil’s on the middle table and there was somebody’s sandwich on the first table, so we sit down and Phil’s taking his pants off, then Tiger walks in and that’s Tiger’s sandwich.
“About this time Phil’s sitting there in his underwear and he’s folding his pants over this chair and Tiger goes ‘dude, what are you doing?’ – he ([Mickelson) goes ‘hey I don’t wear that cheap Nike s*** like you, Tom Ford makes my pants, I don’t want them wrinkled when I’m kicking your a** this afternoon.’
“And Tiger Woods without missing a beat says, ‘I don’t care who makes your pants cover your s*** up so I can eat my sandwich.’”
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The rivalry between Mickelson, Woods has been bitter over the years. The duo’s rivalry came to a head at the 2001 Masters when Woods secured all four of golf’s majors at the same time.
Mickelson played his best nine-holes of golf, but Woods returned strong to win the Green Jacket. Woods mockingly selected a three iron to play the last stretch, after a superb tee shot of Mickelson. He then out-drove Mickelson.
Mickelson asked Woods if he always hits the ball further with his three-iron. Woods replied that he does. These days their rivalry is far friendlier with both men’s best years behind them, but ahead of the 2022 Masters on April 4 only Woods is expected to compete.
After being severely injured in a February car accident, Woods will make an unlikely comeback at Augusta. Mickelson will be absent from his first Masters since February, 28 years after his controversial comments about the Saudi Golf League that cost him many long-term sponsors like KPMG and Amstel Light.
No matter where this rivalry goes in the future, one thing is for sure, Woods won’t be eating a sandwich in the company of Mickelson anytime soon.