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By Kevin Currie, Golf Editor - Archive - Email
Mickelson provides several 'what-ifs' in win
What if is the story of Phil Mickelson's career.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Phil Mickelson won the Phoenix Open for the third time on Sunday, but even in victory he produced several "what-if" moments.

The first round ended with Mickelson's birdie putt for 59 horse-shoeing the hole. It was a cruel twist of fate that you can see here, if you haven't caught it before.

Frank Nobilo summed the putt up perfectly when he said on Golf Channel's broadcast, "In a weird way, this is so Phil, isn't it, through his career?"

Mickelson, you may recall, started his career by going 0-for-46 in the four majors. That span included seven top-3 finishes, but no wins until he broke through at the 2004 Masters.

The near miss on his final hole Thursday resonated through the week as Mickelson went on to miss the PGA Tour's 36-hole scoring record after making double-bogey on his final hole Friday.

The left-hander needed five birdies in his last six holes Saturday to match the tournament's 54-hole scoring record. Mickelson managed three birdies on the back nine on Sunday en route to tying the tournament scoring record with his total of 256.

His score matched the second-best 72-hole score in PGA Tour history, missing the record by two strokes.

What if that putt for 59 went in? What if he hadn't made double-bogey on his final hole Friday? What if is the story of Phil's career.

Though this was Mickelson's 41st PGA Tour title, there are easily a dozen more tournaments he could have won.

Outside his four major championship victories, Mickelson has posted 18 top 5s in the majors. Of course, Jack Nicklaus finished second 19 times in the four majors. That could be an even greater what-if?

The 43-year-old Mickelson also has 27 second-place finishes and 22 third-place finishes. If he turned half of them into victories, Mickelson would jump from ninth to sixth on the all-time wins list.

For Mickelson to have earned 41 titles is a feat by itself. He has the second- most wins among active PGA Tour players, behind Tiger Woods' 75 titles.

Mickelson's career started with a win in 1991 as an amateur. At the time, he was battling the likes of Lanny Wadkins (21 wins), Hale Irwin (20), Greg Norman (20) and Ben Crenshaw (19).

Once that group started to fade toward the Champions Tour, Mickelson was facing the likes of Woods, Vijay Singh (34), Davis Love III (20) and Ernie Els (19) through the latter part of the 1990s and 2000s.

Of those eight players, six are already members of the World Golf Hall of Fame, as is Mickelson, and Woods will certainly be inducted in the near future. Love also has a shot at making the Hall.

Mickelson, who will defend his title this week at Pebble Beach, has battled those seven Hall of Famers and still rung up 41 victories. What could have been, though?

After two poor starts to the season, Mickelson brought his coach, Butch Harmon, to Phoenix for a quick tune-up on his swing. Those adjustments led to Mickelson finishing first in proximity to the hole and greens in regulation.

His putting also was outstanding as he led the field in total putts made distance-wise and was fifth in strokes gained.

Put those numbers together and it's easy to see how Mickelson walked away with the first-place paycheck.

Those numbers haven't been a frequent occurrence for Mickelson the last few years, though. He has just one victory each year dating to 2010. But his win in Phoenix gives him at least one win in 18 of the last 20 years.

There have been plenty "what-if" moments in Mickelson's career, but one thing is for sure - you can stop writing him off as a threat to contend week in and week out.

HARRINGTON IN FINE FORM

Padraig Harrington made his first career start at the Phoenix Open this past weekend and continued his fine play from his first two European Tour starts.

The Irishman has three starts under his belt this year and has broken par in 10 of his 12 rounds. He has finished inside the top 25 in all three events.

Harrington continually tinkers with his swing, but obviously has found a move that is working for him right now, and that is good news for the three-time major champion.

It may as a surprise to some, but Harrington hasn't won since he earned his third major championship title at the 2008 PGA Championship. That came after he repeated as champ at the British Open.

With five rounds in the 60s, and 10 subpar rounds, Harrington could soon snap that winless streak. He is playing the Pebble Beach Pro-Am this week, and he had three top-20 finishes there in the last five years.

Harrington played to the raucous crowd in Phoenix, too, as he booted about a half-dozen footballs into the crowd at the par-3 16th. This week, he'll play for different crowd at Pebble Beach, where celebrities play alongside the pros for the first three rounds.

For now, the swing is working, so Harrington is done tinkering with it. That could change in a couple weeks, but he's best served riding his current momentum.

MINI-TIDBITS

* Brandt Snedeker might be my choice for Player of the Year through five events. He has played four of the them and has three top-3 finishes. He tops both the money list and the FedExCup points list.

* One other Mickelson note from this week: He tallied nine birdies on the four par-3s. Justin Leonard owns the tour record as he went 10-under par on the par-3s at the 1996 Buick Open.


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