Golf, right now, has the perfect poll question: Whos the best lefthander in the world right now, Mike Weir or Phil Mickelson? The emphasis is on right now.
Weir, the Canadian, won the Nissan Open Sunday at Riviera for the second straight year. Mickelson, the Californian, has played in four events this season, won once and finished no worse than seventh.
Weir has ascended to No. 4 in the world rankings. Mickelson has moved up to No. 8 (after beginning the New Year outside the top 10.) Weir was born on the 12th of May in 1970. Mickelson was born on the 16th of June in the same year.
Weir needed six years to get onto the PGA Tour full time after college. Mickelson won a U.S. Amateur. Then, before turning professional, captured the 1991 Northern Telecom Open. It was the last time an amateur won a PGA Tour event.
Compelling arguments can be made for both players. Mickelson has won almost twice as much money as Weir. But Weir has one major, last years Masters, to none for Mickelson.
Mickelson is wildly popular among golf fans in the United States and very popular everywhere else. Weir is wildly popular among all Canadians and very popular among golf fans everywhere else.
Mickelson has 22 official PGA Tour victories. Weir has seven. Mickelson, the Weir camp argues, would gladly trade all 22 of those wins for Weirs one major. Weir, the Mickelson camp argues, will never produce the body of golfing work that Mickelson is compiling when the careers of both players are over.
Mickelson is 6-1 in playoffs in Tour events. Weir is 3-1.
All the above is mostly fact. Now for a few opinions guaranteed to upset the followers of one or both of these players. Fact is, its very difficult to have a pro-Mickelson opinion that doesnt provoke a Weir fan. Similarly, its hard to sell the Weir side of this argument without displeasing the Mickelson camp.
PUTTING: Mickelson used to be a better putter than Weir. Weir has caught up in that category. Phil misses too many four-footers.
DRIVING: Mickelson hits it longer and he is also hitting it straighter than usual for him this year. Weir hits it longer than it looks like he should (and thats meant as a compliment).
SHORT GAME: This depends on how short youre talking. For my money, Weir might be the best 100-yard wedge player among the top 30 players in the world. Closer in, around the greens, Mickelsons talent is wondrous. Occasionally, his own imagination takes him prisoner and convinces him to try shots that have too little margin for error.
OTHER FACTORS: Weir manages his game better than MickelsonMickelson is capable of reaching more par 5sMickelson, by the way, hits his long irons farther than almost anybody on Tour Weir does not rattle Both players have accomplished and professional caddies.
THE VERDICT: Thats why they have poll questions. My tally will be informal. But I will report back, in this space, the results of the E-mail feedback I receive.
Email your thoughts to Brian Hewitt