Wednesday, August 06, 2008

With Tiger Woods's absence from the golf scene due to injury, and other stories such as the upcoming Summer Olympics and the Brett Favre/Green Bay Packers saga garnering most of the sports media attention, relatively little has been made of the annual PGA Championship beginning tomorrow.

To the extent that commentators have addressed the PGA tournament, a good deal of the discussion has focused on how Phil Mickelson's career (in major touraments, at least) has turned on a dime, for the worse. What seemed to be a rise to greatness fell, just that quickly, into his being mired in mediocrity.

Having won the 2005 PGA and 2006 Master's, Mickelson appeared to be on the verge of making it three straight majors, as he neared the end of the '06 U.S. Open. However, as characterized by the Wikipedia, Mickelson ended up with: of the most memorable final hole collapses in major championship golf. Leading by a stroke with one hole to play, he chose to hit driver on the final (72nd) hole of the tournament, and hit it well left of the fairway... He decided to aggressively go for the green with his second shot rather than play it safe and pitch out into the fairway. His ball then hit a tree... He was unable to get up and down from there, resulting in double bogey and costing him any chance of winning the championship outright or getting into a playoff... and also ending his bid to join Ben Hogan and Tiger Woods as the only players to win three consecutive professional majors...

Reflecting on his performance afterwards Mickelson admitted: "I still am in shock that I did that. I just can't believe I did that. I'm such an idiot".

In the nine majors he's played since then -- the '06 British Open and PGA, all four majors in '07, and this year's Master's, U.S. Open, and British Open -- he has finished in the top 15 only once (a tie for fifth in this year's Masters; see aforementioned Wikipedia link for his career finishes).

It's certainly tempting to say that Mickelson's collapse at the '06 U.S. Open threw his career into a tailspin, compared to how well he had been playing. Prolonged -- and unexpected -- slumps are not new for him, however. After recording three straight high finishes spanning 2001-2002 (second in the '01 PGA, third in the '02 Master's, and second in the '02 U.S. Open), he fell into the doldrums. Over his next six majors -- with the exception of a third in the '03 Masters -- his finishes were tie for 66th, tie for 34th, tie for 55th, tie for 59th, and tie for 23rd.

We'll see this weekend if "Lefty" can get back to contending for major titles again.

No comments: