First of all, he won the tournament on Thursday and Friday.
Yes, I know, he birdied the 72nd hole Monday morning to officially stake out his claim to the Wanamaker Trophy. But Mickelson opened with a 3-under par 67 Thursday that earned a share of the first-round lead. He followed that with a Friday 65 that neatly placed him three shots ahead of the field.and, perhaps more importantly, 12 shots ahead of Tiger Woods.
Know this: Mickelson pays a lot more attention to Woods than Woods does to Mickelson. And the comfort level of being a dozen shots ahead of the worlds top-ranked player was a clear advantage for Mickelson heading into the weekend.
They say you cant win the golf tournament on Thursday or Friday. And, strictly speaking, that is correct. But in retrospect, Woods may have lost this one with his opening round 75. And, in the end, Mickelson would turn out to need every bit of the cushion he built. His winning total of 4-under was one better than runners up Thomas Bjorn and Steve Elkington.
Every shot counts one. Doesnt matter what day.
Secondly, we must now consider that Mickelson should not be ignored any more going into any major. Not many people figured him, in advance, to be in the final mix at Baltusrol, mainly because his three victories this year came early in the season and his performance in the three previous 2005 majors had been mostly indifferent.
Basically, Mickelson was written off. He arrived at the PGA in no particular kind of good form. And it was hard to ignore the fact that his final-round scores in the four most recent majors were 76, 74, 74 and 74, respectively.
Now we know Mickelson can turn on the jets at a major at any time. Ignore him in future majors at your own peril.
Finally, the critics that have charged Mickelson with paralysis by analysis need to stand silent. He has won two of the last eight majors and those results are hard to question.
Mickelson has a top-100 swing coach in Rick Smith. His interaction with short game guru Dave Pelz clearly has been beneficial. And his physical therapist, Sean Cochran, was present at Baltusrol. Sources in the Mickelson camp told me Phil worked out with Cochran at least an hour each day the week of the tournament.
Of course Mickelsons weight fluctuates from month-to-month. And he will never be the poster boy for Golds Gym. But Mickelson should get some modicum of credit for not ignoring fitness altogether.
Mickelson also has decided playing the week before a major is best for him after having visited the venue prior to that. In the case of Baltusrol he spent 10 hours with head pro Doug Steffen, picking his brain, 10 days before the PGA.
Steffen subsequently told me nobody else in the field, among the tour pros, asked him about the golf course.
So dont be surprised if other players take notice of Mickelsons method and his success. Woods got everybody into the gym when it became clear he was gaining an advantage with his fitness. Mickelsons modus operandi may become something of a gold standard going forward as the top players look for ways to better prepare for major championships.
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