Stick A Fork In Him, He’s Done

One of the greatest professional golfers of his, or for that matter any, generation will never win on a PGA TOUR sanctioned event again. “Join the chorus”, you yell, “way to go out on a limb,” you cry, “people have been saying that about Tiger for months,” you chastise. But I’m not talking about Tiger Woods. I’m saying Phil Mickelson has collected his last meaningful trophy.

The last time Phil celebrated a victory was in July of 2013. Tiger, who many have declared dead an buried, won his last tournament more than a month later than Phil. Mickelson missed the cut three times this year (same number as Tiger) including The PLAYERS and trails the aforementioned “will never win again” guy Woods in several season statistics including Driving Distance, Greens in Regulation, Proximity to Hole, and Strokes Gained Putting. The last dozen times he’s teed it up “Lefty” has just two rounds in the 60’s (both 69’s one Thursday of the United States Open and the other Sunday at the British Open). Since the middle of June Phil is 20 OVER par while Woods in that same time period is 8 OVER with six of twelve rounds in the ’60’s.

So recent numbers suggest that Woods is trending one way and Mickelson the other yet article after article, talk show after talk show, and expert after expert continue to rail about the demise of Tiger’s career while never once mentioning that the more likely outcome is that, of the two, Phil Mickelson is the player that will not win again. In my opinion there are other factors that helped me get to this conclusion.

Tiger works harder than Phil. Woods wants to get back, he is grinding on his game and is clearly both focused and flummoxed on and by the pace of his progress. Phil on the other hand has always had a more carefree attitude and, throughout his career, relied on his natural physical skills and incomparable imagination. He may still have the imagination but the skills have deteriorated.

Tiger has goals. He’s four PGA TOUR victories (82-79) shy of passing Sam Snead for most all time and four major victories short of tying the only other person considered the game’s “greatest of all time”, Jack Nicklaus. Tiger believes the first goal is inevitable, the second still attainable. Mickelson on the other hand will never be the most prolific winner on TOUR, he will never earn PGA TOUR Player of the Year honors ( Woods has done it 11 times ), Phil will never win the money title ( Tiger did it 10 times ), and Phil will never win a Vardon Trophy for lowest scoring average ( Tiger has 9 ). The only professional goal left for Lefty is winning a United States Open Championship and that dream died at Merion.

Tiger turns 40 in December, Phil, born June 16, 1970), is 5 and a half years older. Both have aches and pains (physically and personally), Tiger is coming off back surgery but getting stronger and healthier every day, Phil has psoriatic arthritis which won’t go away, but he treats medically. Tiger recently split with Lindsey Vonn while Phil is on the periphery of an ongoing FBI SEC insider trading investigation. Mickelson’s three kids are 16, 14 and 12 while Woods is still years away from the demands of teenage children ( parents don’t try and tell me that’s insignificant ).

So why is the chatter all about Tiger’s demise and nothing about Phil Mickelson’s winning chances meeting an expiration date? My theory is simple; writers, pundits and so called experts LIKE Phil and they feel the opposite about Tiger. They know Tiger is the economic engine behind the sport’s boom but they don’t like the way he’s treated them throughout his career and they can now jump on any chance to bust him for it. Phil almost always had a smile, a thumbs up and a moment to answer a question or two so he gets a pass. Plus Tiger just matters more than Phil.

So you heard it here first… Tiger Woods will win again, Phil Mickelson won’t. People who know me or know about my history are well aware that I am often wrong in fact I was spectacularly wrong about Tiger in 1996 ( I shared this story in my book, Cover Me Boys, I’m Going In ) so, one way or another, take my prognostication to the bank but to me it’s clear, the great player done collecting championship hardware is Phil Mickelson.

About Keith Hirshland

My name is Keith Hirshland and I am a four decades television veteran who has spent time both in front of and behind the camera. During nearly forty years in broadcasting my path has crossed in front of, behind and alongside some of the best in the business... And some of the worst. Many of those people I count as friends while others wouldn't make the effort to spit on me if I was on fire. This television life started early watching my Mom and Dad found, fund and run a local affiliate TV station in Reno, Nevada. As a teenager approaching adulthood I worked for them, first as an on-air sports reporter/anchor and later as a director and producer. Jobs in the industry took me across the country and then to many places around the world. Sports is my passion and putting it on TV has been my business. Production credits include auto racing, baseball, basketball, bowling, college football, field hockey, soccer, volleyball and water polo but the majority of my time "in the chair" since 1990 has been invested in the game of golf with both ESPN and The Golf. Channel ( I was one of the first forty people hired by TGC in 1994 ). I am a fan and I watch TV sports as a fan but I also have hundreds of thousands of hours watching from inside a production truck. I think that makes me qualified to comment, my hope is you agree. I have written two books, Cover Me Boys, I'm Going In (Tales of the Tube from a Broadcast Brat), a memoir that is a tribute to my parents, the hard working, creative people who started ESPN2 and The Golf Channel and a look back at my life in television. My second book is a novel, Big Flies, and is a mystery that tells the story of a father and a son with four of the world's most notorious unsolved robberies as a backdrop. I look forward to sharing new thoughts about golf, golf television, sports in general and the broadcast industry with you. The views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They are not connected to nor endorsed by any other person, association, company or organization.
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