It was a victory Mickelson never really saw for himself, because he had struggled at links golf prior to this year. However, he won the Scottish Open on a links course prior to the British Open, and he went to Muirfield with new confidence.
That's a commodity Tiger Woods never seems to lack, at least outwardly. He was quite sharp in his first round at Muirfield with a 69, but he got progressively worse as the tournament progressed.
Nevertheless, Woods was in contention at the start of the final round, and he appeared to have a good chance to come away with the claret jug.
Woods was just two strokes behind third-round leader Lee Westwood, and the English star had never won a major. But Woods never fired in the final round, and Mickelson bypassed him as he soared to the championship.
The question at hand is whether Mickelson has bypassed Woods as the player of the year.
Mickelson has won three tournaments this year, but the Scottish Open victory earlier this month is not considered "official" when you look at the PGA Tour's official standings. However, Mickelson deserves credit for his excellent performance because it came against a field of top European professionals. Mickelson has won $4.86 million in official earnings, and he is second to Woods on the FedEx points list with 2,118.
However, Mickelson is not second to Woods in the category both golfers believe is the most important when it comes to determining success. Mickelson has a big advantage over Woods because of his play in the majors in 2013.
Woods finished fourth in the Masters, and his play at Augusta was similar to his performance at Muirfield. Woods played quite well through the first two rounds but was not at his best in the final two.
Woods tied for 32nd with an unimpressive four rounds at Merion in the U.S. Open, and he tied for sixth at the British Open.
Mickelson did not have his game together at Augusta, and he tied for 34th. However, he bounced back at the U.S. Open. While he could not hold on to a late lead, which was heartbreaking for him, Mickelson tied for second in the tournament.
He then responded with a stellar showing at Muirfield. Mickelson has now won three of the four majors during his career, with the U.S. Open being the only one that has escaped him.
Mickelson and Woods seem to be moving in opposite directions in the golfing world. Over the last decade, Woods has won six majors, and Mickelson has won five. Prior to that, Woods had won eight, and Mickelson had been blanked.
In their rivalry, Woods used to be the hammer while Lefty was the nail, but now they are on much more even terms.
The season still has several key moments that will play out, with the most important being the PGA Championship at Oak Hill in August. The last of the four majors may not have the prestige of the Masters, U.S. Open or British Open, but it is still one of the jewels of the golf season.
It may very well take a victory by Woods in that tournament to earn him player of the year honors. He has not fared well in the majors this year, especially in weekend rounds. Mickelson has won a major in spectacular fashion, and he also has a second. That's a lot better than Woods at this point.
That makes Mickelson the 2013 golfer of the year.
It could change if Woods finally breaks his five-year drought and wins the last major of the year, but if he does not, it's Mickelson's year based on the criterion that matters most.
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