Phil Mickelson is often stellar around the greens.
Phil Mickelson continues to carry the hopes of golf fans who love to see him compete on the tour.
From time to time, Mickelson will put it altogether and give his fans a thrill.
Earlier this month, Mickelson played sensationally in the Phoenix Open. He started the tournament by firing a 60, and he never let down. He followed with 65, 64 and 67. The final totals gave Mickelson a 28-under total of 256 and gave him an easy victory that added $1,116,000 to his bank account.
But Mickelson's showing early in the 2013 season has been indicative of the way he has played all too often throughout his career. Specifically, Mickelson had a brilliant 2009 season that included three PGA Tour victories. Since that season, Mickelson has not had any more than one victory in any season.
If he continues on that path in 2013, Mickelson will not find the winner's circle at any point during the remainder of the season.
That would not be surprising based on his recent history.
Not only has Mickelson had a hard time playing consistently over the course of a golf season, he often has trouble stringing shots together within a tournament or sometimes within a round.
Mickelson often says he feels good about his game or his play with his driver, for example, or his irons, but some shots will get away from him.
When Mickelson missed the cut at last summer's Greenbrier Classic in West Virginia, he said he was perplexed by how his game got away from him.
"It doesn't feel bad off the tee. It doesn't feel bad with the iron play," Mickelson told ESPN.com. "It doesn't feel bad chipping or putting, but I'm making some loose drives here or there, some loose irons shots here or there, missing some short putts here or there, and just haven't been putting it all together.''
The key word in Mickelson's description is "loose," and it is something that all golfers understand.
When Mickelson is standing over a tee shot, a fairway shot or one from the short rough, he feels good and is ready to hit the ball solidly and get the desired results. But instead of executing the shot perfectly, Mickelson makes a nearly imperceptible mistake, and the shot goes off course.
Then there's the other aspect of Mickelson's game that is likely to rear its head at any time.
Mickelson is a student of the game and one of the most cerebral players on the tour.
However, there may come a point in any tournament where Mickelson turns off his thinking brain and decides to become "Go For It" Mickelson or "Tin Cup" Mickelson. When he needs to get to the green in two shots, he'll decide to go for broke and swing as hard as he can.
That's a strategy all golfers understand. The best professional golfers usually harness those feelings and play a complete and intelligent game when they have a chance to win.
Whether it's a loss of concentration or a desire to show off his manhood, this tendency has regularly been associated with Mickelson. It came to the fore in the Pebble Beach Pro-Am when he made three bogeys in a four-hole stretch (source: Los Angeles Times) while playing at Spyglass Hill in the second round of the tournament. That helped Brandt Snedeker seize control of that event.
Mickelson may have designs on competing with Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods and perhaps Snedeker for major championships and the top spot in the world rankings.
But his moments of brilliance are often followed by moments of dunderheadedness.
Mickelson fans would love to believe that consistency will be the watchword in 2013, but the evidence points in the opposite direction.