Tiger Woods vs. Phil Mickelson: Could Phil Ultimately End Up on Top?

James Walker@@JamesWalker90Analyst IAugust 18, 2011

Tiger Woods vs. Phil Mickelson: Could Phil Ultimately End Up on Top?

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    One the eve of the 2007 U.S Open Mickelson’s coach, Butch Harmon, claimed that his star pupil would soar above Tiger Wood’s in the rankings table.

    "Tiger's got a big lead as number one in the world, so it'll take a couple of years," Harmon said.

    "But I think (Mickelson) can and I think he will actually," he added.

    Four years on, and his prophecy has come true. Mickelson is ranked above the now defamed Woods, but it is not at the summit of the world rankings.

    Lefty occupies sixth spot on the rankings title, with Tiger a lowly 33rd.

    Phil Mickelson may be ranked as the better golfer at present, but is it possible that he will be able to close the gap on Woods’ career feats, and perhaps, surpass him?

A Comparison Of: Major Tiles Won

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    There is not a single major title in world golf that Woods has not won. Since turning professional in 1996 Tiger has accumulated a tally of 14 major honours, but he has not won one since 2008.

    Despite his unprecedented draught, Woods has earned himself eternal recognition as one of the greatest athletes to ever play golf.

    Phil Mickelson on the other hand will be remembered as one of the best golfers of his generation.

    His last major triumph came at the Master’s Championship in 2010, but it was only his fourth career major.

    Although his major tally is impressive, he has been playing professional golf for four more seasons than Tiger, but trails his major horde by ten.

    The ascension of several talents across the pond, not least Rory McIroy, Lee Westwood and Luke Donald, has brought about a shift in the sport’s hierarchy.

    It will be difficult for either of the two Americans to consistently beat such European talent, thus making it a distinct uncertainty that Mickelson will come anywhere close to equalling Woods’ major honour hoard.  

A Comparison Of: Other Tour Championships Won

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    Tiger Woods has won a combined total of 128 career titles in the PGA tour, European tour, Japan Golf Tour, Asia Tour and the PGA Tour of Australia. He has dominated at courses across the world.

    Phil Mickelson on the other hand has accumulated a total of 52 championships, 39 coming in the PGA tour, 7 in the European, 1 in the Challenge tour and a further 5 at private events.  In reality Mickelson has been strong on home soil, but across the sea he has struggled to maintain the same dominance.

    Mickelson has been one of the sport’s best competitors for the past decade, but his tally is incomparable to Tiger’s.  

    Despite their unquestionable success, they will no doubt be disconcerted by the fact that between them they have won two tournaments since 2009; Lefty’s Masters Success in 2010 and the Shell Houston open in April 2011.

    Again, Tiger has a considerably distant lead over his fellow compatriot, and it will remain that way.

A Comparison Of: Marketability

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    Having looked at Tiger’s slump since 2009, one could be reminded of his former corporate partner, Gatorade, and their slogan, “is it in you?”

    Tiger Woods was the world’s biggest, and most marketable sports star for close to a decade but since the tabloids exposed a string of discrepancies in late 2009, his popularity has plummeted. He has lost huge sponsorship from Gillette, Accenture, and TAG Heuer.  However, EA Sports have continued to allow his name to endorse his franchise.

    Phil Mickelson on the other hand has no blemishes on his record; in fact he is a sportsman that the everyday fan can relate to.

    It has been reported that, even in Woods’ heyday, Mickelson was the second highest paid athlete in the world; earning more from commercial endorsements than he did in prize money. Estimates suggest he earns as much as $47 million a year from corporations such as Rolex, Callaway Golf, Exxon Mobil, and Barclays.

    Phil Mickelson may not be the international brand that Tiger Woods is, but using his name as an endorsement is extremely profitable, and arguably more favourable given revelations at Tiger’s private life.  

    Despite this, it is unlikely that Mickelson will ever become a more recognisable athlete than Tiger.

A Comparison Of: Career Prize Money

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    Tiger Woods:  $94, 787, 167

    -          (As of August 5th 2011. PGA Tour winnings only.)

    Phil Mickelson: $62, 863, 910.

    -          (As of July 18th 2011. PGA Tour winnings only.)

    Tiger Woods has earned more prize money than any player in the history of golf, despite only being part of the PGA tour for 15 years.

    2011 will be the first season that Woods has earned less than $5 million in prize money since 1997; to date he has amassed a total of $629, 863 for the year.

    Between 1999 and the time revelations of his private life we exposed, he had an average return of $7.7 million per annum. Since then he has collected $2 million over two seasons, a meagre tally in comparison to his past accomplishments.

    Phil Mickelson on the other hand has been a consistent earner over the past decade.  Although he does not come close to matching Woods’ prize money, he has collected an average annual return of $4.6 million in prize money alone.

    Since the fiasco surrounding Tiger’s extramarital affairs, Mickelson has collected close to $7 million in prize money.

    This difference in prize money however does not show that Mickelson is in better form, Woods simply has not been competing as frequently as he has done in the past, thus restricting his lucrative income.

    If Woods was to retire now, Mickelson would have to play on for another six years to surpass Tiger’s career prize money- and that is if Lefty manages to stick to his average income.

    Mickelson’s decline in form, and age, concludes that it is highly unlikely that Lefty will come close to matching Woods’ career prize money total.

In Conclusion...

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    Phil Mickelson has surpassed Tiger on personable grounds, but it is highly unlikely that this will extend onto the honours board.

    There is a vast chasm between the players in all of the statistics that golfers are judged upon; major titles, championship wins and career prize money.

    Lefty is a great golfer, but he will never surpass Tiger Woods.

What Do You Think?

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    Can Mickelson surpass any of Wood’s career achievements? If so, which ones?

    Will Tiger Woods find his old form and win more majors?

    Is there someone else who could leapfrog them both?


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