Sunday, March 15, 2009

How Important Today is To Phil Mickelson and the Game of Golf

At 2:45 PM today, Phil Mickelson will hit a tee shot on the first hole at Doral leading the WGC-CA Championship at 16-under with Nick Watney. Those facts you probably know.

What you don't know is that this tournament may be the most important of 2009, with Mickelson battling to win a tournament that as Tiger Woods' coming out party. Here, let me explain.

All his career, Phil has been second fiddle. He was a dominant lefty all his life, but in 1997 Tiger came on the scene and has basically turned Mickelson into a secondary tale. He was the lovable loser. He carried a beeper during a tournament in case his wife went into labor. He smiles a lot. He, at times, is chubby like the rest of us.

Thing is, Phil is probably one of the top five most talented golfers to ever play the game. Like, ever. The guy is what we should love about golf. He takes risks, he makes decisions on the course and sticks by them. He is basically a living, breathing version of those Kenny Mayne commercials where he asks serious questions to golfers about their choices before allowing them to play his golf ball. What is true is that most of that stuff doesn't translate. People don't really like him. He never rises to the challenger Tiger has put down. Hes' that guy that makes everyone say things like, "Why is he hitting DRIVER on the 18th hole!!!!"

If he could pull this tournament out today he'd be a little bit different in my mind. He'd be a little tougher. He'd be the first big name to step up since Tiger's injury (sorry Padraig). He would be what we expected Phil to be a long time ago.

This was a media circus for one person, and he's the guy with the Swoosh. This was not a Phil Mickelson weekend. The first three days, he's made it about him and that is exciting for everyone involved.

We need Tiger and Phil to battle. It makes everything more interesting. It would be Mickelson's second win in three starts, two in a row at stroke play events. He'd be the hottest golfer in the world heading to Augusta. For the first time, he might be the story.

What would get Tiger more motivated than to see Phil's picture on the cover of all the golf magazines speaking of him as the favorite in Georgia? That the stuff that has to get golf fans excited. I sure am.


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