From the Rough

Golf without discretion

Does Phil Mickelson really care about being the World No. 1?

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As expected, Phil Mickelson has been his usual roller coaster self during most of his 2010 season. The 40-year-old Mickelson, currently the holder of the second best player in the world title, has had his share of ups and downs.

And that’s to be expected, especially when your last name is synonymous with scrambling and miraculous golf shots.

The highlight of the year came in early April, as Mickelson managed to take home his third green jacket at the Masters. His swashbuckling style allowed him to pull off a number of shots that not only put his name in the history books, but gave CBS a couple of highlights we’ll be seeing for years to come.

But aside from the highlight of the Masters, there have been a number of lowlights, most recently his inability to take over a role many thought he coveted: the title of world’s best golfer.

Following the Quail Hollow Championship, Mickelson had the opportunity to do something he’d been dreaming of for years, and that was relegating Tiger Woods to the first-loser role. But instead of capitalizing on the opportunity, Mickelson came up short.

And then he came up short again at The Players Championship; and again at the Colonial, missing the cut in the process. All in all, Mickelson has had six opportunities to wrestle the number one ranking away from Woods, and every time he’s walked away with nothing to show for it.

On Friday, Mickelson missed the cut at the Scottish Open, missing out on not only another opportunity to become the world number one but also a chance to get in contention in a part of the country where he’s had very little success.

Instead, Mickelson stumbled, leaving us with a less-than-stellar feeling regarding his chances going into next week’s British Open at St. Andrews, a course where he’ll once again have a chance to overtake Woods for the top spot.

Given the number of times Mickelson has choked as he neared the peak of professional golf, many have started to wonder if he truly wants to hold the mantle of professional golf, a title he seemed destined to own before Tiger Woods came along.

Like the Utah Jazz and the New York Knicks during the heyday of the Chicago Bulls (you could also throw the Buffalo Bills in there as well), there seems to come a time where you become accustomed to almost reaching the top of the mountain before falling short.

The thought of winning the title seems unfathomable given the competition you’d have to beat to get there. And instead of upping your game, you begin to settle. Settling, as we all know, can lead to complacency.

While I don’t think Mickelson is complacent when it comes to competing with Woods, there’s still that part of me that wonders if he gets a bigger thrill out of chasing Woods than he would being at the top and having to fend off the competition.

Some guys are just built that way. While I still believe Mickelson would love to own the title of world’s best, even if it was only for a couple of months, you still have to wonder if it’s really a title he covets at this point in his career.

Given the way he’s played with the title on the line, I’d venture a guess that there are plenty of other things out there Mickelson covets more than that title, like win multiple majors in a single season. He has a chance to make that a reality next week at St. Andrews.

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Written by Jonathan Wall

07/09/2010 at 11:50 pm

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