Phil Mickelson's 54th-place finish at the Masters this week was an anomaly—not a sign of things to come.
It would be easy to jump to the conclusion of the latter. It was the worst Masters finish of Lefty's career since 1997, and he has fallen outside the top 50 in four of his nine events this season. At 42 years old, a case could be made that he is on the downslope of his career.
But he's not.
If you dive deeper into Mickelson's performance this week, you'll see that it was nothing more than four mediocre days of golf.
According to Masters.com, he hit 71.43 percent of fairways and 62.50 percent of greens in regulation. Both of those were well above the field average.
He struggled out of the sand (just two saves in six chances) and on the green (1.69 putts per hole, slightly worse than average), but it's not like he was horrendous in either aspect.
In the end, he still managed 15 birdies—as many as Tiger Woods, who finished fourth.
But Mickelson summed it up perfectly (via ESPN.com's Farrell Evans):
"I just had an off year," Mickelson said. "I don't know what to tell you. I played poorly. Today was the first time that Butch and I -- we had some good direction and I'll have something to work on these next two weeks before I play at Charlotte and The Players."
It was an off year. Nothing else. There wasn't some sudden irreversible weakness in his game that reared its ugly head and signifies a future decrease in production.
Before this year, Mickelson had three wins, 11 top-10 finishes and just one cut at the Masters. In 19 appearances as a pro, he had an average finish of 10.6 (counting his cut year as 47, as 46 made the cut).
At a freaking major championship.
Mickelson owns the Masters, and one disappointing finish in nearly two decades doesn't suddenly reverse that.
Additionally, the world's 10th-ranked golfer has already won a tournament this year and finished third in another. Despite his "struggles," he is still fifth in the FedEx Cup Standings.
Mickelson may be coming off arguably the most disappointing week of his career, but he'll still be as big of a threat as ever at a relatively compact Merion course at the U.S. Open in June.