Phil Mickelson (pictured) cannot be ignored this week as our Player in Focus as he looks to win the AT & T Pebble Beach Pro-Am for the second year in succession. Mickelson won the Phoenix Open last week and if he can maintain that level of form to early April, he will take a great deal of beating in the US Masters.
Mickelson has won three Green Jackets at Augusta and made the top five on seven other occasions. He has also finished runner-up five times in the US Open, which is a record in the history of the second major championship of the season. Lefty has also won a US PGA Championships so is halfway to a career Grand Slam. Unfortunately, Mickelson has never really taken to links golf, so is unlikely to win the British Open over the remainder of his career.
The US player is rightly in golf’s Hall of Fame as he has now won 41 times on the US PGA Tour. He has won at least one tournament in each of the last ten seasons and no other player, including Tiger Woods, can match that record. Dustin Johnson has won in six seasons on the spin so is some way to matching Mickelson’s record in this respect.
Our Player in Focus won from wire-to-wire at the Phoenix Open. His 28 under par total was just two shots worse than the PGA Tour record for a 72 holes. He averaged 64 strokes in his four rounds over the week and eventually won by four shots from Brandt Snedeker.
Mickelson has the temperament and personality to cope with the special demands of the pro-am format. He can maintain his form and concentration as amateurs take their time to relish a rare chance to play alongside professionals. Big Phil plays with a smile on his face and is a good companion on the course.
He has an outstanding record at Pebble Beach. He has won the tournament three times in the last eight years and played over the weekend in each year since 2009. Putting is strength and the three host courses require a good effort on the greens in order to contend.
One anomaly in Mickelson’s career is that he has never been number one in the world rankings. After winning in Phoenix he is now back in the top 10 but will need to win several regular tournaments and at least one major to overhaul Rory McIlroy. That process could begin this week at Pebble Beach.