Phil Mickelson: Can He Still Challenge for No. 1 or Is He Past His Prime?

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Phil Mickelson: Can He Still Challenge for No. 1 or Is He Past His Prime?
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Phil Mickelson remains one of the most formidable golfers on the pro tour.

Golf fans probably think they have seen Mickelson grow up in front of their eyes, as he has played in PGA tournaments since 1988.

Mickelson, 43, is one of the top five most recognizable golfers in the world. Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy are ahead of him in the recognition category, but Mickelson does not have to take a back seat to any other golfer.

While Lefty remains quite popular, he is also a polarizing golfer. Mickelson is admired for his ability to execute the most difficult shots on the golf course. He has that go-for-broke mentality that causes him to take chances on shots that lesser golfers would shy away from.

Mickelson, a four-time major winner, had a solid 2012 campaign by most standards. He finished eighth on the tour with slightly more than $4.2 million in earnings. He played 22 events on the tour, and he won the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro Am. He also finished second in the BMW Tournament and third in the Masters.

Mickelson had seven top-10 finishes and 10 top-25 finishes in the 22 events he played. He finished 14th in FedEx Cup regular season points.

However, he also went through a midseason slump that forced him to make several swing adjustments (source: SkySports.com).

While golf is a sport that the top pros can play into their late 40s or early 50s, it might be a little much asking Mickelson to compete well enough that he would actually have a chance to contend for the No. 1 ranking at the end of a given season.

He has so much skill and ability that he can certainly win another major tournament or two or go on a hot streak during the regular season, but when younger competitors like McIlroy, Zach Johnson, Bubba Watson and Keegan Bradley are in their prime, it would be a lot to ask him to make a push for the top spot.

In addition to the competition, Mickelson has had health problems that can impact his game. Mickelson has psoriatic arthritis, a condition that causes his immune system to attack his joints and tendons.

While the condition appears to be under control with medication and diet, he must treat it regularly if he is going to play golf and continue his outside interests.

Mickelson is confident that he can manage his health and continue to play solid golf. Ranking with the best golfers in the world is not something that he is ready to give up at this point.

Mickelson has played some of his best golf at the end of the 2012 season, and he sees an excellent 2013 season ahead.

"I've played some of my best golf at The Ryder Cup, I played very well at the HSBC Champions, and I'm excited about next year," Mickelson told SkySports.com. "That three or four months downtime has forced me to piece my game back to where I think I'm better now that I think it has been in a long time."

Mickelson should be a major factor on the tour in 2013. But challenging for the No. 1 spot might be just out of his reach at this point.

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