I’ve had my Fill of Phil

I have opined about Philip Alfred Mickelson on this site before and my hope is you didn’t mind because I am going to do it again.

Flipping back and forth between sports events on TV Saturday I returned now and again to the Golf Channel. Each time, much to my growing dismay, I was force fed every single shot struck by Phil Mickelson. With every glimpse of the black clad lefthander my mind called up the same two thoughts… Why? And “What better way to attract millennials to the game than by showcasing the 45 and a half year old spokesperson for a rheumatoid arthritis drug? I realize more than 1.3 million Americans suffer from this debilitating disease and I, in no way, wish to cast aspersions on any of them so let’s concentrate on the WHY?  

“Because he’s PHIL!”

“Because PHIL is one of the greatest!.”

I know he is and I don’t think he is.

Before I go on let me say without a single doubt in my mind that Phil Mickelson is a very, very, very, very, ok one more, very good player. In fact in his prime he had few, if any, peers as a pitcher and chipper of the golf ball but that alone doesn’t elevate his game to the level of one of the greatest of all time. When I say that I mean he isn’t in my top 20. I know, I know, he’s won 42 times on the PGA TOUR (9th all-time) and can claim five major championship victories (more on both of those stats later) but what drops Phil Mickelson out of the top 20 for me is the fact that he has never, everbeen the best in the business or the best of his generation for any single year, or at any time, since he dominated the college and amateur game from 1989-1992.

Granted in the two plus decades since Mickelson turned pro he has done a number of things but what he has NEVER done is:

  1. Ascend to the top of the Official World Golf Rankings
  2. Been the leading money winner during any season on the PGA TOUR
  3. been named PGA TOUR Player of the Year
  4. been awarded the Vardon Trophy for lowest scoring average

If you give him a pass on all of that because his career ran in the same fast lane as Tiger Woods I give you Martin Kaymer, Lee Westwood, Ernie Els, Luke Donald and Adam Scott. They all achieved OWGR number one status playing at the same time as Tiger. Phil never could.

I also offer up the names of Tom Lehman, David Duval, Vijay Singh (3 times), Matt Kuchar and Luke Donald. All did what Phil Mickelson never did: lead the PGA TOUR in earnings while Tiger Woods was teeing it up as a pro. Need more? How about this; both Mark O’Meara and Padraig Harrington have been Player of the Year on tour during the Tiger Woods era but not Phil Mickelson. In case you’re wondering Tiger won Player of the Year eleven times but this isn’t a Tiger vs Phil discussion, this is a Phil vs Greatness conversation.

Phil also had five years BT (before Tiger) and still couldn’t garner any of those accolades losing out on some or all of those awards to players including Greg Norman, Nick Price, Fred Couples, and Nick Faldo between 1992 and 1996. I am also well aware that Phil Mickelson is in the World Golf Hall of Fame but who among us can argue, with a straight face, that that isn’t the least exclusive club in sports.

Now lets get to those tournament wins. I’m certain you’ll offer up his five major championships as a defense. Not bad, say I, just not good enough.

It took him more than a dozen professional years to win his first (the 2004 Masters Tournament). A year later he won his second major (the PGA Championship) and the very next year another Masters. A nice run but it took him four more years to win another major (his third Masters) and another three years to win his fifth and final one (the 2013 British Open). Five majors in all. Just for illustration there have been 36 players (13 men and 13 women) to win more than five and another eight (5 men, 3 women) tied with Mickelson on that mark. Also three of his major wins were at Augusta, masterfully done indeed, but it is the same golf course year after year and the field is the smallest and least competitive of any major championship.

He also won 2 WGC events (I’m including the 1996 World Series of Golf), 2 TOUR Championships, 1 PGA TOUR playoff event and 1 The PLAYERS. By my count that’s 11 rather impressive titles. If you want you can trumpet his one win at Bay Hill but even just a cursory look at the rest of his wins gives you a resume riddled with Greater Hartford Opens, BellSouth Classics and A T and T Pebble Beach Pro-Ams. All respectable victories but, in my mind, hardly the stuff of greatness.

So go ahead, TV guys, and keep bringing Phil Mickelson into my living room but how about you start showing him on tape, when he holes a shot from the fairway, dunks one from a greenside bunker, chips in from just off the green or legitimately has a chance to win. Just stop with the every shot, every step, every smile, every tip of the KPMG cap, coverage. I realize to many this is heresy, “my god man this is Phil Mickelson you’re talking about” but he’s well past his “sell by” date and there are younger, better, more appealing, people playing at the same time, in the same event. Oh and many of them have a better score and a better chance of winning. Please stop forcing Phil Mickelson on us, wouldn’t that be great!?

 

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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