Left field

The Reuters global sports blog

Lefty’s golden opportunity

March 29, 2009

Having been overshadowed by Tiger Woods for most of his career, Phil Mickelson appears to have a golden opportunity to grab his share of the limelight this year.

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.

Before the start of the 2009 PGA Tour, Mickelson had surprisingly failed to accomplish two benchmarks already achieved by three of his perennial rivals in golf elite events. Tiger Woods reacts to his drive from the second tee during the second round of the U.S. Open golf championship at Torrey Pines in San Diego

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

Comments

Sportspeople always say rankings mean nothing to them. And we shouldn’t read too much into Mickelson’s being so close to the number one spot, as Tiger missed eight months through injury and would still be miles ahead if hadn’t been away.
But for the great man, who we know doesn’t get on with ‘Lefty’, it might be pretty galling to be usurped by Mickelson of all people. Interesting times.

Posted by Tom | Report as abusive
 

Looks as though Eldrick read your blog Mark…

Posted by Tom | Report as abusive
 

Of course I have heard it for years, but Mickelson has Woods right where he wants him. Sure he does. Reminds me of a two horse race. Mickleson will come in second and Woods next to last.

Posted by Gary E. Masters | Report as abusive
 

Woods was immense in that final round in Orlando and having him back in the winner’s circle must be a good thing for golf. In economic conditions like these sport can’t afford to be without him.

Posted by Kevin Fylan | Report as abusive
 

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