Phil Mickelson reckons Tiger Woods can roar again in The Masters as he bids to bridge a 14-year gap to claim a fifth Green Jacket.
“I just wouldn’t rule him out,” said Mickelson of his fellow American in the build up to the event’s 83rd staging at Augusta National.
“I’ve seen him do things with a golf ball and perform at a level higher than anything I’ve seen in the game. I just would never rule him out.”
Woods won here on his first appearance as a professional in the event in 1997 before repeating the feat in 2001, 2002 and 2005.
His chances of adding to that tally seemed slim when his career seemed under threat due to back problems a couple of years ago.
But the 43-year-old has been rejuvenated since capping a remarkable comeback by winning the Tour Championship in Atlanta at the end of last season.
“To see him play the way he did with such control at the Tour Championship and compete in the majors the way he did at the British and PGA (last year), I just think that greatness is still in him,” added Mickelson.
McIlroy has a spring in his step this week, having won The Players Championship at Sawgrass in the build up and recording seven top-10 finishes this year.
“That’s always a challenge when you put so much emphasis on winning a particular event,” said Mickelson in reply to being asked about the mental test McIlroy faces in that quest.
“But it’s also the chance to bring out your best, and he’s had such a phenomenal start to the year. He’s been playing such great golf consistently week in and week out.
“I think contending here will be a given. You just need those little breaks, little putts here or there to go in, little things to happen that push you into the winner’s circle and that’s probably all that he’s waiting for this week. You can’t force it. It just has to happen.”
Mickelson, a three-time winner, is in good fettle himself, having won the AT&T Pro-Am at Pebble Beach in his preparation for the season’s opening major.
“I think there’s a very similar style of play during that week as there is here, and I’m looking forward to getting on this golf course where I don’t feel so handcuffed that I can go ahead and let loose a little bit,” said the 2013 Open champion.