Once again, Phil Mickelson had a chance to take over the No. 1 ranking from Tiger Woods. And once again, he fell short, spinning himself into the ground with an ugly round that left people wondering just how bad Phil wants anything in golf.
Now, Phil defenders can spin this any number of ways. Let's be honest, the No. 1 ranking is a nice perk, but in actuality, it's like what John Nance Garner said of the vice presidency: "not worth a bucket of warm" -- well, let's say "spit." Need proof? As Joe Posnanski noted this weekend, Steve Stricker -- who's a mere mathematical equation or two away from being No. 1 himself -- has not placed in the top 5 in a major in more than a decade.
But there's no way to spin this -- Mickelson has had the chance, time and time and time again, to take over the No. 1 spot, and time after time after time, he has fallen short.
This last weekend was particularly ignominious. He needed only to finish third -- the same position he held coming into Monday -- to become No. 1. But two double-bogeys on the back nine torpedoed his chances, and he shot a get-the-kids-out-of-the-room 76.
So there it is. Let's not play armchair psychologist; that's cheap and lazy, and since none of us has actually battled for No. 1 -- unless Vijay Singh happens to be in our reading audience -- none of us really know what the hell we're talking about. What we can say is that playing a golf tournament at the highest level is phenomenally hard, and it's easy to see how anyone can fall short when absolute, to-the-millimeter precision is required 70 times a day, four days a tournament.
Still, Phil can't keep going along this way. Woods is getting his game back together, and Stricker and others are edging upward. If Phil's going to take the No. 1, he needs to step up and grab it, not stumble and fall on top of it.
- John Nance Garner
- Joe Posnanski