Reality Check for Phil Mickelson
Lefty Has Tantalized Us Before with West Coast Wizardry
By: Rob Doster | 2/20/12, 3:15 PM EST
In this knee-jerk era of sports analysis, when we attach eternal significance to what a guy did yesterday, many observers are anointing Phil Mickelson the 2012 PGA Tour Player of the Year and odds-on favorite to win multiple majors solely on the basis of the last two weekends. Mickelson Mania — or Phil Phanaticism, or whatever pun you can pop out of the oven (see what I did there?) — is rivaling Linsanity as sports' mental affliction of the moment.
I love the guy as much as anybody, but let's tap the breaks.
I'll stipulate that Phil has had a phenomenal fortnight — his win at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am came on the strength of a blazing final-round 64 in which he curb-stomped playing partner Tiger Woods, and in his playoff loss at the Northern Trust Open, he supplied the best drama, carding the weekend's most spectacular birdie at golf's greatest natural amphitheater just to get into Sudden Death.
But let me play buzzkill with a few inconvenient truths.
Mickelson has tantalized his followers for years by treating the West Coast as his personal playground. He rules the West like a latter-day Wyatt Earp; the desert is his sheikhdom. Of Phil's 40 career wins, 23 have come west of the Mississippi, and 18 have occurred in the months of January and February. When the temperatures are at their coldest in the Northeast, Lefty's usually at his hottest out in SoCal and Scottsdale.
Unfortunately for Phil, the players are headed east, and the calendar's about to turn to March, a month in which he's one only once in his career. His best finish in this week's Accenture Match Play is a quarterfinal appearance in 2004.
It's also worth pointing out that, as great as he is, Mickelson's never had that truly monster year. His personal record for single-season wins is four; Tiger Woods has matched or exceeded that total in a season 11 times. Vijay Singh won nine times in 2004. Those happen to be two of the most recent players to be ranked No. 1 in the world, a ranking that Mickelson's never attained. Mickelson hasn't posted multiple wins in a season since 2009.
Bottom line: Mickelson flashes greatness almost as often as he flashes that famous smirk, but he's never sustained it for a full season, long enough to win a money title or multiple majors. Throw in an ongoing battle with arthritis, and thoughts of a run at the No. 1 ranking seem a little unrealistic.
Of course, Lefty's Masters record takes a back seat to Jack's, Tiger's, Arnie's — and no one else's. It won't surprise me if he wins at Augusta. But let's cool any premature Grand Slam talk. Phil's already a Hall of Famer. No need to ask things of him that he can't deliver.
— by Rob Doster
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