As Phil Mickelson basks in what has undoubtedly been the best two weeks of his golfing life, it seems to be the perfect time for a little retrospective on the career of the Champion Golfer of the Year.
The man is a full-fledged, card-carrying member of the World Golf Hall of Fame. However, many times he suffers in comparison to Tiger Woods—just like everyone else who has had the fortune/misfortune of competing while Woods dominated the game like no one ever had before him.
But you can look it up. Philly Mick has been one of the most prolific and consistent winners in the history of the game.
Do you realize there have been only three years since 1991 in which Mickelson has not won a golf tournament? In nine years during that span, he’s won twice.
Twice he’s won three times, and twice he's won four times.
Woods, his archrival, won at least one tournament every year from 1996 through 2009. After two years of injuries and personal destruction, he has won seven times over the last two seasons.
Those are some darn good numbers for the guy who has six runner-up finishes in the U.S. Open and adoring fans who have grown to love his go-for-it style of play.
Even with his sparkling numbers, Mickelson has had his low points—like every other professional golfer.
Not the kind of extended low points that have ruined other golfer's careers, but the few times he has gone into significant funks, they’ve been associated with some serious off-the-course issues.
In 2003, he missed three cuts, had five finishes in the 50s or higher and didn’t have a win or a second-place finish.
Hardly a Mickelson-like year in terms of results, but this one was just a matter of him struggling for a bit. In typical-Mickelson fashion, he rebounded with a pair of wins the next year.
In 2009, he received a double shot of terrible news when his wife, Amy, and his mother, Mary, were both diagnosed with breast cancer. He staggered a bit that year, again posting four finishes in the 50s and missing a pair of cuts.
But giving more credence to his championship makeup, he won three times and made over $5 million.
He never really admitted to any low points, at least until last year’s Ryder Cup. He lost a critical singles match on Sunday to Justin Rose, helping the Europeans overcome a 10-4 deficit to win the Cup.
"I think the first two weeks following the Ryder Cup was a really tough low, one of the biggest lows of my career. I think that disappointment will last a lot longer than a month,” Mickelson said, as reported by The Associated Press (h/t USA Today).
History, the PGA Tour record books and golf fans who take an interest in such things will realize Mickelson was the kind of player who could have ruled the golf world had he not been matched up with Woods.
It was easy enough to overlook Mickelson somewhat in those days because of the special things Woods was doing at the time. It didn’t help that it took him 46 starts in majors before he won one.
But since he’s turned 40, he’s won his third Masters green jacket and then last week was spectacular in winning the tournament everybody said he could never win—the Open Championship.
He’s still going to hit the errant shot, still going to go for some shots that he probably shouldn’t and will continue to miss short putts like he has throughout his career.
And then, on some occasions, it will all click, and he’ll lip out a putt on the 18th green for 59.
But he’ll also interact with fans in a way Woods will never comprehend, signing autographs for long periods at a time, being up front with a number of charities and just being a guy fans can feel like they can warm up to.
He’ll have a hard time topping the high he’s on right now.
Unless, of course, he wins the U.S. Open next year at Pinehurst—allowing him to lay claim to the career grand slam.
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