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Mickelson: Tiger brings out the best in me

ESPN staff
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Phil Mickelson is thrilled to start his US Open campaign with a first-round pairing with Tiger Woods © Getty Images
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Phil Mickelson says he is "excited" ahead of his duel with Tiger Woods, with the four-time major winner declaring he feels "very inspired" when he comes up against his long-time rival.

Mickelson, bidding for his first US Open triumph, tees it up with Woods and Masters champion Bubba Watson in the opening two rounds at Olympic Club in San Francisco on Thursday and Friday.

Mickelson made it five times in a row he has out-scored Woods when playing together in the final round with an eight-under 64 - Woods hit a closing 75 - to win the Pebble Beach Pro-Am in February.

On three of those five occasions Mickelson has ended up lifting the trophy, and he openly admits it is playing with the 14-time major winner that takes his game to a different level.

"I just feel very inspired when I play with him," Mickelson said. "He brings out some of my best golf. I hope that he continues to play better and better and I hope that he and I have a chance to play together more in the final rounds.

"The feeling and the excitement I got when I found out I was paired with Tiger the final round at Pebble got me excited and focused. I felt a similar feeling when I found out we were paired together here.

"The one player I'm most concerned about if I play my best golf that may have a chance to beat me is Tiger."

The pair have had much-publicised ups and downs over the years and, despite the mutual respect, Woods is not expecting deep conversation with the five-time US Open runner-up.

"I don't think we're going to talk about a lot," he said. "This is a major championship, we've got work to do. Any extra motivation? No - I'm just trying to get out there and position myself for Sunday.

"This is a long grind and I think this is one of those championships that I think the guys talk the least to one another because it's so difficult."

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