The Phil Mickelson apologists have often stated the case that their man would be the dominant player in the world had he not competed in the Tiger Woods era, which is a crock because, with the money professional athletes get paid, they are in charge of their own destinies.
Going into The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass, Mickelson could have grabbed the No. 1 position in the world rankings by winning it as long as Woods finished out of the top five. Woods cooperated but Mickelson didn’t come close to getting the job done.
In vintage Mickelson style, he looked quite ordinary, then showed flashes of brilliance all in the same tournament, first flirting with the cut line Friday, then bouncing back with a remarkable 66 Saturday to leave him five shots off the lead, which required more fireworks. He was, however, a non-factor on Sunday.
If he ever gets to the top, and it’s still possible, it will be interesting to see if Mickelson disciples point out that the only reason Lefty got there is because Woods was out, first after surgery following the 2008 U.S. Open, then after his spectacular fall from grace. He’s also struggling badly since returning at the Masters.
Whether it’s the reported bulging disc in his upper back or a misguided driver that caused Woods to withdraw at Sawgrass, it’s not clear how long he will be out of action, so Mickelson still has the door open to march in and take No. 1 in the world, if he wants it.
Mickelson, you may recall, had an opportunity to wrestle the No. 1 spot away from Woods, who was just returning from his surgery, just over a year ago at Bay Hill and, instead of going nose-to-nose with Tiger, Mickelson bowed out with the lame excuse of preparing for the Masters.
Just as well, because Woods won that event and if anyone argues that might have changed had Mickelson been there … well, that was Mickelson’s call.
Now, he has the same shot again. He isn’t in the field for this week’s Valero Texas Open and one caveat that should be stated, in all fairness, when discussing Mickelson’s schedule are the health issues affecting his family.
The other factor that should be mentioned whether he’s No. 1 or is in contention is his own trademark inconsistency, which could lead to a short stay if he does end up on top.
Woods is a heavy weight for Mickelson to shake, whether Tiger is on top of his game or struggling, but here’s another glorious opportunity to get to the top for an extended stay. That would shake Woods off his back and set up the rivalry we’ve been waiting for, if and when Woods returns to his old form.
The question now is the same as that old commercial line — what will Phil do next?
Only he will decide his fate and his legacy.
The short game
Canadian Sean Foley, who has Stephen Ames among others as his clients, denies emphatically the strong rumours that he will coach Woods. “I have not talked to Tiger about coaching in any form whatsoever,” Foley said in a release … One of Foley’s students, Jessica Shepley of Oakville, would have earned an exemption into the CN Canadian Women’s Open had she not already earned one by winning last year’s Canadian PGA Women’s Championship. Shepley won the first event of the 2010 CN Canadian Women’s Tour last week at Quilchena Golf and Country Club in Richmond, B.C. The next tour stop takes place June 27-29 at Blue Springs Golf Club in Acton.