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What Does Phil Mickelson Have in Common With Jean Van De Velde?

18 Jul 1999:  Jean Van de Velde of France still smiling despite finding the Barry Burn with his third shot on the final hole of the British Open at Carnoustie in Angus, Scotland. Van de Velde took a triple bogey seven to squander a three shot lead. \ Mandatory Credit: David Cannon /Allsport
David Cannon/Getty Images
Ron FurlongAnalyst IIJune 2, 2010

What do these two golfers have in common, you ask? You know where I'm going with this, don't you?

Do they both like barefoot walks through water hazards in Great Britian? Do they like pina coladas and getting caught in the rain? Do they like curling up with a cozy book in front of a roaring fireplace?

No?

How about this: Do they both need to remove their own fingers from the death grip they have around their own necks?

Bingo!

Jean Van de Velde's self suffocation was, of course, legendary. But in fairness to Monsieur Van de Velde, it was 11 years ago. Maybe we should cut him some slack.

So where, you may ask, is Phil Mickelson's comparable collapse to that of the infamous little Frenchman's British Open disintegration? Where did Phil pull his Van de Velde?

Well, although you could point to a couple of major choke jobs—like, for one, the U.S. Open in 2006 at Winged Foot when Mickelson double bogeyed the last hole and lost by a stroke to Geoff Ogilvy—there probably isn't a colossal collapse the size or magnitude of the Van de Velde 99 British Open.

However, there are instances, like the aforementioned '06 U.S. Open, sprinkled throughout the career of Phil Mickelson that, if you couldn't actually call them self implemented choke jobs, did at the very least cut off some of Phil's circulation.

Perhaps the many instances make for one big one?

Phil has finished in second place in a major championship six times, and in third place another six times. Consider this along with the amount of time he has spent at number two in the world in his career, and you have a guy who just hasn't quite been able to live up to all those expectations.

Phil is about to turn 40 and has been a pro going on close to two decades now, and still he has never been number one in the world.

We keep thinking that will change. We've thought it a few times this year already, but each time he was about to finally ascend that elusive, invisible milestone, he slipped and fell back.

We definitely thought it last week, when Tiger was resting the neck and Phil was poised, once again, to take over the spot as the world's number one ranked player at the Colonial.

Did Phil finally rise to the occasion? Carpe diem?

No. Phil missed the cut.

So, here we are again. The Memorial at Muirfield Village. Another chance for Mickelson to become the world's top ranked golfer; for the first time.

Again, don't hold your breath.

Of course, what does it really mean anyway, being ranked number one?

Nothing.

Phil could choke himself blue every time number one gets close for the next four or five years until, well, the opportunity is gone, and it won't really matter. It is just a number. A symbolic reference. Nothing more.

Or is it?

Is there something about that little climb to the top that makes Mickelson, time and time again, shoot himself in the foot? Is it, perhaps, that he doesn't have what it takes to stare down that pressure, look it squarely in the eye, give it his big golly—gee Phil smile and shout from the top of the mountain, "I'm king of the hill?"

Does Phil have that killer instinct in him?

Or is he destined to always finish second?

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