On Sunday at Firestone Country Club, Phil Mickelson had a chance. No, it wasn't a big chance, but a decent final round would have put the most famous Lefty this game has ever seen rightfully at the top of the sport. Yep, rightfully. The man deserves it.
The problem was, he didn't come through, shooting a painful 8-over 78 that dropped him 36 spots at the Bridgestone Invitational, miles from where he needed to be to overtake Tiger Woods atop the rankings.
People called it a choke performance. They screamed at Mickelson the way they used to when he was a majorless grinner, that took his licks in the big ones and kept on a-tryin'.
The problem is, it isn't a choke. Why? Because his goal on Sunday wasn't to be the top golfer in the game, it was to be the top golfer that week.
You hear in other sports all the time about accolades certain players receive. Most Valuable Player. Rookie of the Year. Defensive Player of the Year. Sure, earning something like this is great, but nobody is thinking that when they're in the heat of the battle. It's all about that game, that swing, that putt; nobody, not even someone as goofy as Phil, would be caring about his place in the history books when he's trying to grind out a par or stuff an iron close for a birdie.
Face it: Phil had a really bad final round during a week he was hoping would be different, but it wasn't anything more than Mickelson not leaving a tournament with the trophy. He's done that a ton in his career, just like any professional golfer that has ever lived and will ever live. It's a tough game to master, and as golf fans we should understand that as much as anyone.
No, Lefty didn't "choke" at the chance of being No. 1, he failed at winning the Bridgestone Invitational. If being No. 1 in the world was this simple, a lot more people would be in this conversation.
At the PGA Championship, Phil has another shot at this award, but I guarantee, the only thing he's thinking about is this number; five. That's the number of majors he'd own if he left Whistling Straits with the Wanamaker Trophy.