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Did Phil Mickelson Peak Too Early at Scottish Open?

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY | Phil Mickelson's playoff victory over the weekend at the European Tour's Scottish Open instantly made him a favorite heading into the season's third major at this week's Open Championship. However, if history has taught us anything about Mickelson, winning last week may have hurt his chances to succeed at Muirfield.

While the recently enshrined Hall of Fame veteran has 50 professional wins and four Major championships in his career, Mickelson is not typically known for winning multiple tournaments in one calendar year. Since turning professional in 1992, Mickelson has won more than two tournaments in a year only five times: 1996 (4 wins), 2000 (4), 2005 (4), 2007 (3) and 2009 (3).

Of those five "hot years," Mickelson has only one Major championship victory at the 2005 PGA Championship. His other major wins -- the 2004, 2006 and 2010 Masters -- all came during years when Lefty did not win more than twice.

After Sunday, Mickelson has already won twice in 2013 (Waste Management Phoenix Open).

For the sake of comparison -- and because he is the only other active PGA Tour player with over 50 career wins -- all of Tiger Woods' 14 major titles came when he won at least four times that year.

To be fair, it should be understood that any discussion about Mickelson's success is relative to his overall greatness. He is by far one of the best golfers to have ever played the game, period. Most professionals would be tickled pink to win a fraction of the times Mickelson has, especially after the age of 40 (four tournaments).

Even so, Mickelson's career trend further proves how streaky the southpaw's game can be throughout a year. His grip-it-and-rip-it, devil-may-care playing style for which he is famous is both a blessing and a curse. Many believe it was that attitude that cost Mickelson his first US Open title last month after a disappointing late-round collapse on Sunday, yielding instead his sixth runner-up finish in the championship. Others suggest his high-risk, high-reward style earned him his third green jacket in 2010.

Following last week's triumph in Scotland, Mickelson acknowledged his struggles with the links-style golf waiting at Muirfield.

"It's been the biggest challenge of my career," Mickelson admitted. "[A]dapting to links-style golf and this was a great challenge in the final round in some difficult conditions. I played some good golf to come out on top and this is really fulfilling and special."

For Mickelson's sake, here's hoping his victory quota for 2013 hasn't already expired.

Adam Fonseca has covered professional golf since 2005. His work can also be found on the Back9Network. Follow Adam on Twitter at @chicagoduffer.

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