Monday, April 14

No left-handed compliment
By Mark Kreidler



Mickelson Fails to Win Major! Details ... never.

Tiger Woods actually did Phil Mickelson a wonderful favor at The Masters, going feet-up in the final round at Augusta after his blistering 66 Saturday had everyone convinced Tiger was this close to a threepeat.

Phil Mickelson
Phil Mickelson walked away from Augusta trying to figure out what excuse he will use this time.
Thus, Woods' stagger-home 75 on Sunday had the neat effect of diverting nearly 100 percent of the sporting world's attention away from the fact that Mickelson, technically speaking, did not achieve victory in his, let's see here, one billionth major golf tournament.

I raise this because this is normally the point on the timeline -- the Day After -- at which Mickelson's gut-wrenching travails are either the lead or the second story connected with the golf industry, this depending upon whether it was Woods who finished first in the (fill in the blank) championship at which Phil Phailed.

Moreover, this is a fine opportunity to do what we here at Grab Some Perspective Inc. have been advocating for a while now: It's time to set aside Phil Mickelson.

And I mean that in the nicest possible way.

Naturally, it's damn near impossible to ignore Mickelson as a storyline at the major championships. Not only has he been declared the greatest golfer never to win a major, but Mickelson generally addresses his longing to do so with such honesty and humanity that no writer can resist slicing him up into tiny pieces -- with all due respect, of course.

Phil won't just tell you that his little toe hurts, he'll tell you to exactly what degree that hurt exists. He will trace the history of the hurt. He will explain the dynamics of the hurt. He'll thank his lucky stars that he got married and had a child, if for no other reason than that it really puts this whole hurting-toe issue into a larger context. Mickelson's just golden that way.

And understand: Part of the reason the Mickelson/majors story is so often repeated, rehashed, debated and lectured upon is that Mickelson himself allows the world to be part of his mental and emotional process. It is a thing to be both admired and lamented. We in the media kill athletes for being boring, staid and beige in their public comments, but give us a little of a man's heart, which Phil Mickelson generally offers, and we'll run to the bank with that, too.

Mickelson got his undies in a bunch earlier this year, when he felt his comments about Woods using "inferior" equipment were taken to editorial extremes by people who didn't understand that Phil meant the words as, ahem, a compliment to Tiger's skills. Maybe he did and maybe he didn't, but Mickelson at least had one part right: He got barbecued after saying something colorful. (We normally only barbecue jocks for being incredibly cautious with their public pronouncements.)

I'm not suggesting that Mickelson's quest for a major title isn't an interesting story, only that it's a story that has been absolutely done to death. There is no more to write about Phil coming close. There is, I suspect, virtually nothing more that Mickelson can possibly learn from not winning. "Mickelson Falls Short," meanwhile, has become a standing headline. There has to be someone else whose relative misery we can chart for a while.

At The Masters, Mickelson hardly folded his tent. He shot a final-round 68 on a day when only five golfers broke 70. He finished 5-under par in a tournament in which Woods was 2-over, Davis Love III 2-over, Ernie Els and Vijay Singh just 1-under apiece.

Mickelson shot that 68 on a day when the third-round leader, Jeff Maggert, blew to a 75 thanks to a couple of freaky holes. But no one was writing odes to the epic collapse of Maggert, because Maggert hasn't been identified as the best golfer never to win a major.

Perhaps Mickelson, too, is in line for such a wholesale pass. After all, he's just a really good golfer, one of the truly fine golfers out there on the PGA Tour -- personable, great easy stroke, willing to go for the flag Tin Cup-style every now and again. He's not a major champion.

As a veteran golfer once told me, "If you haven't won a major, I don't care how good you are, you're just another guy wearing golf pants." That's Phil Mickelson out there in the pants, having a pretty great time, making a fortune, coming pretty close, living to play another day. Not sure there's all that much agony left to track.

Mark Kreidler is a columnist with the Sacramento Bee and a regular contributor to ESPN.com






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