HOW GOOD CAN HE BE?
As we enter the 2005 golf
season, after looking back at 2004 and his victory at Augusta ,
can we assume that Phil Mickelson is ready to challenge at the very,
very top of the world of golf? What is Phil's competitive potential?
Can this very popular golfer dominate a season of golf as Vijay
and Tiger have in recent years past? How good can he be? Does he
watching his wondrous back nine at Augusta last April to win his
first major, his run at the other majors and then the incredible
59 at the Grand Slam of Golf just what can this man accomplish in
this game? There are a lot of questions about Phil. This writer
has seen him do things with a golf ball that seemed uncanny, unequaled.
This is a man who won his first tournament as a college amateur
and at times appears to be the best in the game. Then on other occasions
he seems ordinary, prone to error. To me, Lefty is the best ball
striker that I have ever seen. When he is on his game he is so very
special, a force with which to be reckoned. So will this man finally
rise to the top of the game and dominate as Jones, Hagen, Nelson,
Nicklaus, Palmer, Watson, Woods, Singh and a handful of others have
in years gone by?
Mickelson has, in the
opinion of many analysts, myself included, the greatest talent in
the game. He can hit the ball as far as anyone and his iron and
short games are incomparable in the highest levels of golfing talent.
With 23 victories in 12 years on tour why did it take him so long
to win a major? His Masters win is his only major but he has come
close so many other times such as his final hole loss to Payne Stewart
at the '99 US Open in Pinehurst. He had another second at the US
Open 2002 plus four 3rds at the Masters among his many attempts
in the majors. He has certainly been near the top of the sport for
the past 12 years on tour.
There are a few things
about Phil that seem a bit different from others who have gone on
to dominate in golf. He might be the most family oriented golfer
in history with the possible exception of Nicklaus. He is obviously
dedicated to his wife Amy and the three children ages five and under.
Family is his priority. Nicklaus was unusual as he was able to manage
family and golf often flying home on a Friday night to see his sons
play prep football and then flying out afterwards, back to his tour
stop. Phil seems more likely to just stay home when important family
matters govern. Another question about Phil is his level of dedication
to practice and physical exercise. Does he stretch himself and push
for excellence like Vijay and Tiger? We know that over the past
year or so he has hired short game instructor, Dave Pelz, to help
him get better around the greens and putting. I ask why? He is,
without a doubt, the best short game player in recent memory.He
is like a trick shot artist with a wedge in his hands. Yet he stays
dedicated to full game instructor, Rick Smith, regardless of his
record, year to year. His caddy, Bones, has been with him for years
through “thick and thin”. So it seems to this person that Phil seems
contented with his game, his coach and team, his schedule and his
career accomplishments. He seems to me to be happy and satisfied.
At age 34, Phil still
has eight to 10 years left to show us how good he really is or can
be. Hopefully for all of us who respect his ability and enjoy his
demeanor he will really dedicate himself and make a run for superstar
status, as in the record books. He is a great talent and a great
guy with many millions of fans. Two very basic questions remain.
Does he have the drive to work? Does he truly have the desire to
dominate? Could this be the year that he puts it all together and
shows that he too can dominate? We will find out one week at a time.
Photograph: Phil Mickelson
- Courtesy of the PGA Tour.
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