The Arizona Republic reported in June 2011 that Phil Mickelson is known for his second-place finishes. Lefty finished in second place at the U.S. Open a record five times. Mickelson is chasing Jack Nicklaus in terms of finishing major tournaments in the runner-up position a record number of times.
Ironically, it is Tiger Woods who may become the next Mickelson in his string of "close but not quite" finishes. Woods has started strong in 2012. He was within a few strokes of leads at some point in every tournament in which he's played this season. Then the former world number one faltered. He even had soreness in his Achilles tendon and had to withdraw from an event.
Currently at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Woods has a 69 after one round. At 3-under par, Woods is a respectable fourth place and three shots off the lead. This particular event is one Woods has dominated a record six times in the past, most recently winning in 2008.
Yet the way Woods has been playing against younger, healthier and arguably better golfers, the next Mickelson may already be in the making.
Mickelson is only five years older than Woods. The difference between the two men is more than just experience on the golf course. Woods has been expected to win the moment he stepped on the PGA Tour. Mickelson wasn't under such pressure until he finished in second place so many times.
ESPN reported the rivalry was stoked when Mickelson blew Woods out of the water at the 2012 Pebble Beach Pro-Am as the pro golfers were paired with each other on the final day. Although it wasn't a major, Mickelson's victory in California was a symbolic passing of the torch. Perhaps the golf gods have chosen to smile upon Lefty now as the Tiger has been disgraced ever since he cheated on his wife.
Woods should probably get used to finishing second more often. There are too many good golfers on tour right now that were inspired by Woods's climb to greatness. The master is no longer worthy of the title--many students of the game have eclipsed his penchant for winning in the past two years. No single golfer has dominated the PGA Tour since the days of Woods because there are so many good golfers playing.
The era of the Tiger is over. It's time for Woods to finish in second place from this moment onward.
William Browning has covered sports for the Yahoo! Contributor Network including golf and local golf courses in southwest Missouri. He currently resides in Branson, Mo.
- Tiger Woods