Mickelson, Woods the next great Masters rivalry?

AUGUSTA - It's beginning to become a familiar trend.

Phil Mickelson putting the green jacket on Tiger Woods one year and Woods returning the favor the next.

A trend many fans in golf enjoy, seeing arguably the two best golfers in the world trading off each year at the Masters. A trend Mickelson wouldn't necessarily like to see this year since that would mean he'd be putting the green jacket on Woods' shoulders on Sunday.

"I hope not, because that would mean what I don't want it to mean this week," Mickelson said.

While it's still early to suggest the two will become the next great rivalry in the Masters, it's certainly shaping up to be. The pair have won five of the last six Masters titles and Mickelson is looking to become just the fourth golfer to win consecutive Masters. The last to do so was - who else? - Woods in 2001-02.

"I think it's a fun challenge to beat him," Mickelson said. "He's most likely the best player the game has ever seen. It's been he and Jack (Nicklaus), and to be able to play against him in his prime is a great challenge."

It's also exciting for Woods.

"It would always be fun because if we're both going at it, that means we've got a chance to win the tournament," Woods said. "If we're both in contention, which we've done before in the past, we've certainly had our fun coming down the stretch on the last nine holes."

It's not the first time the Masters has had two of the top golfers duking it out at Augusta National Golf Club. Arnold Palmer and Nicklaus dominated the event in the 1960s and Ben Hogan and Sam Snead in the 1950s.

"We'll there's certainly a parallel there," Palmer said. "You can't deny that. It's not as long as Jack and I were, but it's certainly got a definite relation to what has happened. I'd like to think that that's going to continue for a many, many moon."

This year marks the 10-year anniversary of Woods' first Masters championship, one of the most memorable ones in the tournament's history.

Woods set 20 records that year and tied six others, including youngest winner (21 years old), lowest 72-hole score (270) and widest victory margin (12 strokes).

Since then, Woods has won 11 more major championships, including three more Masters.

He's won the last two majors - The British Open Championship and PGA Championship - and a fifth Masters title would put him on track for another Tiger Slam.

It took Mickelson 12 years before he every won his first major - the 2004 Masters. Mickelson was labeled "the best golfer never to win a major" but since getting the monkey off his back, he's won the PGA Championship and the 2006 Masters.

"Well, I think once you understand how to play the golf course, you start ... if you look at the course history of this event, you start seeing the same guys win this event multiple times," Woods said. "I think it's just understanding how to play it, where to miss it, shot selections."

Mickelson and Woods seem to have that down for hopefully a very long time to come.