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Phil Mickelson on Tiger Woods’ return: ‘I think it’s great’

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Count Phil Mickelson among those from the world of professional golf who greeted with excitement the news that Tiger Woods has planned a return to competition next month.

The 46-year-old Mickelson was informed of Woods’ anticipated return Wednesday during the BMW Championship pro-am. He noted that Woods will benefit greatly from serving as vice-captain to Davis Love III at the Ryder Cup in a few weeks.

“I think it’s great; I don’t know the state of his health. I haven’t seen him,” Mickelson said, via ESPN’s Bob Harig. “I’m looking forward to spending time with him at the Ryder Cup. I think that’ll be great motivation for him. Plus, he’ll have a week off.”

Woods will attempt his most recent comeback from injuries and surgeries that have marred the latter stages of his career at the Safeway Open, per an announcement the 40-year-old made Wednesday.

Mickelson not only is looking forward to seeing Woods at the Ryder Cup, he also said it would be great if the two were paired up at the Safeway Open.

“I’m hoping we can get paired together,” he said. “That would be really fun. I would love it. It’s great to have him back, and hopefully he’s physically able to practice the way he needs.”

The two-decade rivalry between Woods and Mickelson never materialized into the hoped-for, epic, one-on-one showdowns on the back-9 of major championships. But the two rivals have nevertheless been inextricably linked throughout their careers.

Even though both have enjoyed enormous success, Mickelson acknowledged that Woods will be under enormous pressure upon his return — fairly or not — simply due to his pedigree.

“We’re always going to have high expectations because the guy is arguably one of the two greatest players in history, if not the greatest,” Mickelson said of Woods. “Our expectations of him will always be high. It doesn’t mean given all the health issues and challenges that he’s faced … it doesn’t mean that’s fair.”

Mickelson over the years has gone to bat for Woods despite their rivalry, so it’s no surprise Mickelson is doing so again ahead of Woods’ bid to become relevant again in the world of professional golf.

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