Is This What Weve Waited For

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While I think we can all agree that the 2006 Masters left us wanting a little bit more in the back nine drama department, the result of Phil Mickelson walking off the 18th hole as the champion puts us in a pretty interesting spot.
 
Lefty has everything going right. Hes now won the last two majors and has three overall which puts him at No. 2 in the current World Golf Ranking.
 
Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson
Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson have combined to win five of the last six Masters Tournaments.
Last week I talked about the perch at No. 2 which really had turned into (in my opinion) an interesting race among the likes of Vijay Singh, Retief Goosen, Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els. And now, it appears, we might have another Tiger-Vijay scenario brewing ' albeit without Vijay as the major threat to the Tiger throne.
 
For those of you who seem to think my written word hinges on everything Tiger Woods does or doesnt do, think again. Right now its about Tiger and Phil. And mostly Phil.
 
Mickelson has finally reached the potential that media members and fans hoped for years ago.
 
And never (at least as I see it) was the criticism he faced in the chase to reach it anything more than a compliment to his ability. When you are as good as guys like Tiger and Phil ' we expect more.
 
And so do they.
 
Mickelson is now clearly over the hump. Hes playing like a man on a mission and that can only do wonders for both he and Tiger.
 
Woods loves a challenge. And right now, while he might sit at No. 1 in the World Rankings, he might not be todays best. And by that I mean today. Not tomorrow, not yesterday.
 
Tiger will always be that player that you have to beat to win a major. Similarly, despite being a die-hard White Sox fan, any player would tell you that if you could only eliminate one team from playoff contention before the season began, the Yankees are the team youd have to select.
 
NASCAR has had its man to beat. ' though it has perhaps changed from year to year. Tennis has its run of Roger Federer. Football has had the New England Patriots to blame for dominance.
 
If you follow me on this, I think theres a difference in definition between the man to beat and the tournament favorite.
 
And for my money right now, when the golf greats gather at Winged Foot for the U.S. Open, its probably still Tiger as the man to beat but its Mickelson who is the favorite to win.
 
Suddenly, its Phil whos won 3 of the last 9 majors and is now tied with Vijay and Ernie with three for his career. And now Phil sets out to keep it going and make his place in history.
 
Does Phil finish his career with four or five? Or does he do what very few have done in a career and approach double digits?
 
Tiger may yet go down as the games greatest. Now the question is ' gulp ' what will Phil do next?
 
Does he go down as one of the games greats? Or does he go down as one of the games all-time greatest? There is a huge difference.
 
Take nothing away from Vijay Singh, whose career of 28 PGA TOUR wins and 3 majors has already earned him a spot in the World Golf Hall of Fame. He took on Tiger and nudged past him for No. 1.
 
But Phil Mickelson is the guy every golf fan seems to have hand picked to be Tigers top rival.
 
If thats you ' then now youve got your man and your chance. This is a great time for Phil Mickelson. A great challenge for Tiger Woods, and it could be a great, great time for the game.
 
Strap yourselves in for a fun summer and a few good years on the way. Lets just hope the drama we get in the Tiger-Phil race is a bit better than what we got on the final nine holes at the Masters.
 
At least thats my take.
 
Email your thoughts to Kraig Kann