- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 13, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson often bring out the best in each other’s games. Just don’t expect any friendly conversations when golf’s greatest running rivalry resumes at the U.S. Open.

Luckily, there’s a guy in their group with a pink driver and a green jacket to lighten the mood.

Woods and Mickelson will play with Masters champion Bubba Watson for the first two rounds beginning Thursday at The Olympic Club. It will be the first time Woods and Mickelson have been paired in the championship since Torrey Pines in 2008, when the USGA grouped players off the world ranking.

In typical fashion, Woods brushed off any notion that his playing partners will affect how he plays. Mickelson, meanwhile, couldn’t stop gushing just thinking about all those giddy fans and camera clicks that will surround the ninth hole when he, Watson and the 14-time major champion tee off just after dawn.

Leave it to one of golf’s grandest stages to bring such contrasting personalities together.

“It’s fabulous,” Mickelson said. “First of all, I get excited to play with Tiger, I love it. I think we all do. He gets the best out of me. I think when it’s time to tee off on Thursday I’ll be ready to play.”

And Woods?

“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.”

And so the chase begins.

Again.

The pair last played together about a two-hour drive down the California coast at Pebble Beach, where Mickelson whipped Woods and rallied to win in February. In the majors, Mickelson topped him in the final round of the 2009 Masters won by Angel Cabrera, though Woods beat him soundly at Torrey Pines on his way to winning the U.S. Open.

Mickelson has been on the wrong side of history at this tournament.

A record five-time runner-up for the national championship, Mickelson has had more painful, exhausting _ and perhaps embarrassing _ moments taking on “golf’s toughest test” than maybe any player with his resume.

Chief among them: Mickelson entered the 18th at Winged Foot in 2006 with a one-shot lead. After a tee shot into the merchandise tents left him a decent lie, he tried to carve a 3-iron around the tree, didn’t pull it off and made double bogey to finish one shot behind.

“What an idiot I am,” he famously said afterward.

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