Phil Mickelson relishing Tiger Woods grouping at Players Championship

Frustration was the name of the game for both Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods, as their respective attempts to use the final round of the Wells Fargo championship at Quail Hollow as a morale-boosting dress rehearsal ahead of The Players proved to be an elusive ambition for each of them.

Woods won five of the tournaments in which they were grouped at some point, including the 2006 PGA Championship and the 2008 U.S. Open.

However, fans aren't the only ones looking forward to Thursday's opening round: "We don't get to do it very often", Woods said, according to ESPN's Bob Harig.

"Now, I don't know if he wants a piece of me", he said, pausing for laughter, "but I just think it would be something that would be really fun for us to do, and I think there would be a lot of interest in it if we just went straight to the final round".

And Woods can't wait to join his long-time rival Mickelson on the course on Thursday. "You've now got 20 to 25 guys that are really capable of winning and you know that nine or ten are going to play good that week".

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Follow the PGA TOUR all season long and watch THE PLAYERS Championship exclusively live on Sky Sports Golf as part of year that also includes the FedExCup Playoffs and TOUR Championship.

"I love it. I mean, I love the chance", said the 47-year-old Mickelson, in search of his second Players title.

On Tuesday, Mickelson added a playful touch to the proceedings.

In all, they have played in the same group just 35 times, with Woods holding a slight edge in their round-by-round scores at 16-15-4. Woods went on to win the tournament that week. Although Woods' accomplishments are the stuff of legend, he and Mickelson crossed paths rarely in those prime years.

"He offered numerous times to help me out with technique and just about it", Woods said. "It was some of the most impressive golf I've ever seen in my life and I think ever played".

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Woods was one of several golfers who began the third round at 2 over par, but he took advantage of playing in the morning under overcast skies and an easier course setup than the previous two rounds. You've got to plot your way around, and pars aren't so bad around there most of the time.

Their most famous pairing was when they were partners in the 2004 Ryder Cup, and that didn't end all that well. All three are former Players winners.

"Phil and I have a great banter".

"I was fighting demons out there because when you're not hitting it good, it just feels like the life is getting sucked out of you", he said.

McIlroy had hoped that a strong performance at Quail Hollow - a happy hunting ground in his career, with two tournament wins in the Wells Fargo (in 2010 and 2015) - would act as a springboard going into The Players, on a course at TPC Sawgrass that historically has bettered him.

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  • Jill Young