Phil Mickelson: PGA Superstar Is No Longer a Top Contender

Mike LynchContributor IIIJanuary 26, 2012

LA QUINTA, CA - JANUARY 20:  Phil Mickelson watches his tee shot on the 11th hole during the second round of the Humana Challenge In Partnership With the Clinton Foundation on the Nicklaus Private Course at PGA West on January 20, 2012 in La Quinta, California.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Phil Mickelson struggled with a 77 in the first round of the Farmers Insurance Open.  For the second straight week, he has put himself in a hole in Round 1.  He is currently 15 strokes off the lead, however he does have the easier Torrey Pines North Course in store for Friday.

It is unfair to write of Mickelson based on five rounds, but his decline goes back almost two years.  He has not been the same golfer since the 2010 U.S. Open.  Since then, he has dealt with his wife and mother fighting cancer.  He was also diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis.  Mickelson will turn 42 in June, so age is becoming an issue.

From 2004-2009, Mickelson won multiple tournaments each year.  He looked to be having a very strong 2010, winning the Masters and getting robbed of another win by Rory McIlroy at Quail Hollow.  However, he did not seriously contend in a tournament following the U.S. Open that season.

He was battling to become the No. 1-ranked player in the world two years ago.  He never was able to accomplish that.  He has now dropped to the 15th spot in the rankings.  The putter has become a major issue, as Mickelson went so far as to use a belly putter in 2011.  While he was always a streaky putter, he seemingly has lost all confidence with the club.

Mickelson was never associated with consistency, but in order to win golf tournaments, some consistency is needed.  He simply lacks that element now.  He still has stretches of great play, but they are too few and far between.

He won his only tournament in 2011, The Shell Houston Open, thanks to a great 36 holes.  He contended in the British Open thanks to a great nine holes.  That is the formula for success at this point.  

This is not to say he will never win again.  After all, a great nine holes won Jack Nicklaus the 1986 Masters.  It does seem that his time as an elite golfer has passed by.  

Personally, I hope he proves me wrong.