Shades of Oakland Hills? Phil Mickelson would welcome Ryder Cup pairing with Tiger Woods

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods shown during the 2004 Ryder Cup at Oakland Hills Country Club.

Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are all buddy-buddy these days. At least, that's the narrative both are pushing.

But it wasn't always that way.

And it really wasn't that way 14 years ago at Oakland Hills Country Club in Bloomfield Township, site of that year's Ryder Cup.

Then-Team USA captain Hal Sutton stunned the media and golf world when he paired the two megastars together on the opening day. The result was disastrous, with Woods and Mickelson losing both Friday matches — setting the tone for a Team Europe thumping of the United States, 18.5-9.5.

Well, could this year's captain, Jim Furyk, be considering a sequel? Mickelson actually suggested as much during his press conference in France on Tuesday, saying he'd "welcome" a pairing with Woods this week.

The Ryder Cup starts Friday and concludes Sunday.

Woods, 42, and Mickelson, 48, both are coming off good seasons, in which each won for the first time in five years — including Woods' fascinating victory at the Tour Championship on Sunday.

Woods finished second in the FedEx Cup standings, and Mickelson 21st.

Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson walk during a practice round at the Ryder Cup on Tuesday.

All the while, the top two golfers of their generations have mended what for decades was a frosty relationship. They've played practice rounds together, and even struck a deal for an exhibition match set for Las Vegas over Thanksgiving weekend, with the winner receiving a $9-million prize.

In 2004, Sutton's decision to pair the two unfriendly rivals together blew up in the team's face, with Woods and Mickelson losing to Colin Montgomerie and Padraig Harrington, 2-and-1, in the Friday morning match, and losing to Darren Clarke and Lee Westwood, 1-up, in the afternoon match. Each match featured several icy stares between the stars.

The pairing was disassembled for Saturday's matches, and Woods and Mickelson, with new partners, each won a match on Day 2 in 2004.

Two years ago, Mickelson blasted Sutton's captaincy, specifically waiting until two days before the start to tell them that they would be paired together. The loss was the most-lopsided in U.S. Ryder Cup history.

“That's an example of starting with the captain, that put us in a position to fail and we failed monumentally, absolutely," Mickelson said in 2016.

Sutton responded: “I mean, my God, somebody's got to be the fall guy. If it needs to be me, I can do that. If he wants to put the blame on me, then let him do it. If I still need to shoulder the blame for Phil, I'll do that.”

This is Mickelson's 12th Ryder Cup, and his record is 18-20-7. Woods is playing in his eighth Ryder Cup, but first since 2012; his record is 13-17-3.