Mickelson shot 63 in round one at Deutsche Bank Championship
Phil Mickelson, the man who has everything. Beautiful wife, great family, fabulous career, the Big House, the Big Jet, the Big Corporate Contracts. And yet there are some things he knows are missing.
What does the man who has everything want? Well, maybe a little prize called the Jack Nicklaus Trophy, given to the golfer voted Player of The Year. To get that, he needs more hardware.
Mickelson has had the good and bad fortune to play the bulk of his career during the Tiger Woods era. Good because a rising tide lifts all boats, and Woods' emergence increased prize money for everyone. Bad because Woods has had a habit of snagging trophies the way a great angler reels in trout.
Since his short debut season in 1996, Tiger Woods has been PGA Tour Player of The Year 10 times. He has 79 PGA Tour titles and 14 majors. From 1997 to the first half of 2008, he was nearly unstoppable, an immovable force. At least that was how it seemed.
During the window of opportunity that Woods has given players since the end of 2009, Mickelson has captured two additional majors but just three other tournaments.
He has fought his putter and his driver and his approach to the game. This year he has cobbled together some brilliant play, showing a great deal of determination in the face of adversity.
The biggest difficulty Mickelson faces are the numbers. His biggest annual victory count has been four tournaments while Woods has often racked up four, five, six or even more in a season.
This year, Woods has five victories, and in most seasons, one of those would be a major and another guaranteed Player of the Year award for him. This year Woods won the Players and four good tournaments to date, but no majors.
That means Mickelson is at least in the running for Player of The Year because he won the British Open, a major. But he needs more, like a victory in the Playoffs or FedExCup, to have more than a negligible chance against Adam Scott, who won the Masters and the Barclays.
What voters are now faced with is: Do five PGA Tour titles beat the Masters plus the Barclays or the British Open plus the Phoenix Open?
Another victory could sway things in Mickelson's direction.
"I just want to play well these next three weeks, because I feel like if I can add a win or two I have a realistic chance at Player of the Year, which I've never accomplished," he said after shooting 63 in the first round at the Deutsche Bank Championship. "That would mean a lot to me."
If he is able to add a playoff victory, it also puts him in position to win the FedExCup, something else he has not yet accomplished. There are only six winners of the series to date, and Tiger Woods has won two of them. The other four winners were Brandt Snedeker, Bill Haas, Jim Furyk and Vijay Singh.
"This is now our 7th year with the FedExCup," Mickelson continued. "And as time goes on, I think it's going to be more and more prestigious; it's something I'd like to capture."
Mickelson won the Tour Championship as a FedExCup event in 2009, but Tiger Woods won the FedExCup. Mickelson's worst finish in the new season ending format was 22nd in 2010. He also won the Tour Championship in 2000, before the FedExCup began.
Both victories were at East Lake GC in Atlanta.
Having fired a first round 63 at the Deutsche Bank, Mickelson has at least given himself a good chance to move toward that as-yet elusive P-O-Y goal. He's not the kind of golfer who is given to high rounds after low rounds, but it's golf, and anything can happen.
This week, Mickelson is packing his Phrankenwood as his driver and hit 78% of the fairways in round one. Mickelson in the fairway should make his fans lick their chops. He was certainly in a positive state of mind.
"You can just tell sometimes. The game feels sharp," he said. "And mentally I have a lot of energy and I'm able to focus clearly. And that's usually when you play well. "
It helps that he likes the TPC of Boston and that it fits his game.
"I feel like there's plenty of room off the tee to get the ball in the fairway. The fairways are generous," he explained. "If I'm able to hit them, which I hit a number of fairways (Friday), I'm able to be aggressive into the greens, which is the strength of my game, my iron play. So I think that's why I like this golf course so much."
All he has to do is hold that thought for three more days.
Kathy Bissell is a Golf Writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained first-hand or from official interview materials from the USGA, PGA Tour or PGA of America.