Lefty’s golden opportunity
All the early signs are pointing toward a season to remember for the American left-hander who is one of the most thrilling and gifted shot-makers to have played the game.
While Woods, South African Ernie Els and Fijian Vijay Singh had each become world number one and triumphed in at least one World Golf Championships (WGC) event, Mickelson had repeatedly come up empty.
For all his talent and the three major titles he clinched between 2004 and 2006, the general feeling was that Mickelson suffered largely because he played in the generation dominated by the extraordinary Woods, arguably the best of all time.
However, the first three months of this year have gone a long way to suggest that a brand new chapter of triumph is about to written by the player widely known as ‘Lefty’.
Two weeks ago, he finally claimed his maiden WGC crown, defying dehydration to beat fellow American Nick Watney by one shot at the WGC-CA Championship in Miami.
It was Mickelson’s second PGA Tour victory of the year and has left him within touching distance of eclipsing Woods as the game’s leading player.
Woods has been top for 198 consecutive weeks but his commanding lead was whittled away while he spent eight months on the sidelines following reconstructive knee surgery after his U.S. Open triumph in June.
The number one is now only 0.20 points ahead of his left-handed compatriot and if Woods fails to win this week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando, victory for Mickelson at next week’s Houston Open would seal the deal.
Mickelson, who is taking this week off, believes he has never been in better form.
Renowned for his short-game magic and bold strategy, Mickelson worked hard on his golf with swing coach Butch Harmon at the end of last year and he now seems to be reaping rich reward.
Maybe, just maybe, that strong work ethic and natural talent will translate into a season to remember for Lefty.
Picture of Woods and Mickelson at Torrey Pines last June by Danny Moloshok/REUTERS