Does Phil Mickelson need a win to salvage 2010? He says no

ATLANTA -- There are few on-course stories in golf more compelling than the will-he-or-won't-he weekly drama of Phil Mickelson. He's been so close to the No. 1 ranking for so long now -- 13 events and counting -- that the No. 1 ranking has called the cops to come get Mickelson off his lawn.

After the first round of the Tour Championship, Mickelson is at -1, tied for sixth, three shots off the lead. He's the defending champion; he won the event last year after posting a three-over 73 in the first round.

Combine those two, and you've got the key question of Mickelson's year: does he need a win at the Tour Championship to make this year a success?

Sure, he won Augusta, and that's a fairly significant achievement in itself. But since then, it's been a summer of misfires and might-have-beens, a season where Mickelson has been defined more by what he hasn't done than what he has.

In Atlanta, Mickelson affirmed where he came down on the issue. He noted that Augusta "kind of made the year for me. It meant a lot to us emotionally, it meant a lot to me personally. And I look back at the year, and it really comes down to that one event. I mean, there wereother events I played okay in, but I haven't won any other events yet. For me the year was kind of salvaged by that Masters win. That's how much that tournament means to me."

Okay, here's my take: any year you win a green jacket, you can miss every other cut; kick nuns, puppies and orphans every day of the week; and vomit into the cup on the Island Green at Sawgrass, and the year still wouldn't be a lost one. (Matter of fact, judging from that list of achievements, the year would be an awesome one.) But your mileage may vary.

So now it's your turn. Does Phil need to win this weekend to validate his 2010, or did he put a bow on this year way back in April?