But his first seven tournaments were nothing to get excited about. Mickelson had one top 10, and nothing close to a sniff of the top of a leaderboard. He went into Augusta National far from a favorite of mine, but left with another green jacket and a highlight for his year. At that moment, Phil was on top of the golf world again. He had claimed another major, his fourth since 2004, and cemented his name as one of the best to ever play that exclusive golf course in Georgia.
But, that is where his year stopped. For all the talk about how bad Tiger Woods' 2010 has been, Phil's, sans Augusta, hasn't been much better. Phil has played in 17 tournaments, seven more than Tiger, but has only three more top 10s. He hasn't really competed in a tournament besides the Quail Hollow Championship, when Rory McIlroy closed the door on Lefty with that Sunday 62, and the way he has played the last month has been far from impressive.
Maybe it was the pressure of actually becoming No. 1 in the world, something Phil has been chasing all season long, or maybe it's just a slump that Lefty tends to find occasionally when the nuts and bolts of his lengthy golf swing don't fit together, but something the last few weeks hasn't been there, and the missed cut at last week's Barclays was the final cherry on the top of a rather stinky cake.
It could be a lot of other things that have caused Phil to trip after the Masters. Amy's breast-cancer problems seemed curbed at the moment, but things like that don't just leave your mind when they happen. On top of that, Phil himself has been struggling with health problems, admitting before the PGA Championship that he has been diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis, and has become a vegetarian in hopes of furthering his recovery.
Whatever the reason, Phil might be one of the biggest question marks on the U.S. Ryder Cup team competing in a month. The Ryder Cup has been feast or famine for Mickelson in the past.
Since 2003, when he went winless for the season, Phil hasn't finished a season with only one win. While the one victory this year was at a major championship, I'm sure the talks in his camp will focus a lot more on what happened after Augusta, and what needs to change to get him back to the form that he showed when 2009 was wrapping up.
- Augusta National