Welcome to the new season of Teeing Off, where Devil Ball editor Jay Busbee and head writer Shane Bacon take a day's topic and smack it all over the course. Suggest a future topic by writing firstname.lastname@example.org, or hit us on Twitter at @jaybusbee and @shanebacon. Today, we consider whether this past weekend's Pebble Beach win is a harbinger of good fortune for Phil Mickelson.
Busbee: Phil wins! Phil's back! Phil is the favorite at Augusta! Phil starts fast and fires a bullet into his own foot on Friday! That's how this story goes, isn't it? Phil Mickelson gets everybody's hopes up with a big win, then falls apart right when the spotlight is brightest. Shane, do you think Phil's 2012 is going to be any different from most of his last few seasons of promise and letdown?
Bacon: I just ... I can't ... he's still Phil Mickelson, right? I think there are things in life that give certain athletes Captain America-type shots of confidence, and for Phil, wouldn't that be whipping Tiger on the golf course he once dominated in absolutely historic form? Mickelson is literally the most roller-coaster athlete I've ever seen, so predicting what he does seems silly, but he is rolling the rock great, seems to be hitting it even better, and now has this to build on, so I guess I'll be the idiot that takes the bait and say that this could be a pinnacle season for Phil. The Masters? The U.S. Open at a creative golf course? I could see Mickelson, if this continues, going two-for-two to start the season at the big events. Am I insane?
Busbee: You are insane. The only way Phil is going to have a huge season is if nobody expects him to have a huge season. So what needs to happen is a major Tiger charge between now and the Sunday at Augusta. Still, the way Phil played Sunday ... there was something different, something suggesting that these guys have many stories still to come. Your thoughts on how Phil has owned Tiger of late, sir?
Bacon: See, I think that is a bit of a misconception. We are all golfers and can all agree on one thing; you don't "own" someone because you aren't really playing against that one person. You're playing against a golf course and a field. Yes, Phil has beat up on Tiger lately, but it's more like he's just outplayed Tiger in those spots. Tiger played terrible on Sunday. Phil played amazing. I don't really think those things are mutually exclusive.
Tiger obviously needs to work on his short putting. It was horrendous. And Phil, who has struggled with that the last 18 months, was making basically everything on Sunday from all over Pebble Beach. But I don't know if I can buy "Phil has owned Tiger." He just has outplayed everyone in those spots! But I do agree with on your Mickelson point. He needs to disappear before Augusta if he wants to win. Anytime he comes in with expectations he plays like you and I would at Oakmont.
Busbee: Get Johnny Miller on the phone, stat!
Here's my take: I agree with you on the whole playing-the-course aspect. But let's be honest: this is Tiger freaking Woods. He lives for the head-to-head rivalry ... or at least, he did when he was the one in charge. Now that it's not a foregone conclusion he'll run down the leaders, we'll see more about what Woods is made of. And if Phil's the guy he's running down ... well, we'll learn more about Phil, won't we?
Bacon: It is strange that the guy that used to be the strongest mental golfer in the entire world can't seem to get out of his own way now. The guy has turned into the best 54 hole golfer in the world, but when Sundays come around he freaks out. Should he avoid wearing red now? Has he hung out with Dustin Johnson too much?
Whatever the case, I think we can all agree Phil Mickelson is the man right now, at least for the week, and we will be hard-pressed to find a better final round all season than his 64 on Sunday. Great stuff.
All right, your take. What do you foresee for Phil in 2012? Answer in the form of a question. No. 2 pencils only. And ... begin.