What Will Everybody Else Do Next


So lets examine this latest, brightest, shiniest, freshest version of Phil Mickelson. And lets take a hard look at where his breathtaking last two weeks leave us in the top-heavy world of mens professional golf six events into the 2005 season.
For starters, Phil The Thrill, by winning in dominant fashion in Arizona last week and on the Monterey Peninsula Sunday, has thrust himself into the top spot on the list of favorites for the Masters which will begin in less than two months.
Vijay Singh remains solidly entrenched at the top of the Official World Golf Rankings and, like No. 2 Tiger Woods, already has won on the PGA Tour this season. But Singh missed the cut at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am to finish out of the top 10 in his third straight event. Unbelievable as it may sound, people already are beginning to wonder if Singh has gone off the boil.
Woods, who returns to action this week at the Nissan Open (a tournament Mickelson will skip), can take consolation'if he thinks he needs any'in the fact that he is 1-0 against Mickelson in 2005. Woods beat Mickelson and everybody else last month at the Buick Invitational.
World No. 3 Ernie Els hasnt won in the States yet this year and the gap has closed between him and No. 4 Mickelson in the computer rankings.
In fact it wasnt long after Mickelsons final putt dropped at Pebble Beach Sunday before the pundits were gazing ahead to the week after next and the WGC-Accenture Match Play. Suddenly the dream matchup is no longer Singh vs. Woods. It is Mickelson vs. Woods. At the very least, a possible Mickelson-Woods semi-final showdown just might garner better television ratings than a Singh vs. Woods final.
I know one man who would watch that one: Hal Sutton.
Ever since the Ryder Cup last September at Oakland Hills, Sutton has been widely second-guessed for putting Woods and Mickelson together in the Friday morning fourballs and the Friday afternoon foursomes. The dynamic duo lost both matches, and its highly unlikely they will play together in Ryder Cup competition again any time soon.
But watching Mickelson streaking through the sky of golf like a comet in the last few weeks, its clear what was tempting Sutton. What if Woods had played up to form and Mickelson had flashed this kind of brilliance?
Bottom line: I would have put Mickelson and Woods together, too.
Meanwhile the debate has been joined on which recent Mickelson round of golf was the best. There was the stunning 59 he fashioned in Hawaii early last December at the PGA Grand Slam of Golf after virtually no practice in the days leading up to the event.
There was the 60 he dropped on the field at the FBR Open last week in Arizona, an 18-hole total that golf statistician Sal Johnson noted was five shots better than any other round shot by anybody else all week.
Or do you prefer the 62 he carded Thursday at the desperately difficult Spyglass Hill to break the course record by two shots?
Give me the 60 at The TPC at Scottsdale. Mickelson played that courses 11 par-4s that day in 7-under-par. This is a track that boasts one of the tougher sets of par-4s on Tour.
So, yes, the best players are playing well at the moment. And Mickelson deserves, at this moment, to be favored to successfully defend his title at Augusta National. Weve even come to learn that his menu choice at the Tuesday night Champions Dinner at The Masters will be lobster ravioli.
With apologies to the elderly woman at the restaurant in the scene made famous by Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally: Ill have what hes having.
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