(Editor's note: GolfChannel.com is counting down the top 10 newsmakers of 2016. Take a look at why each item made our list, along with a collection of their top stories from the year. Click here for the full list and release dates.)
Phil Mickelson may not have won a tournament in 2016, but his suddenly resurgent play still warranted inclusion on our list of the year’s biggest newsmakers.
After parting with longtime swing coach Butch Harmon, Mickelson entered the new season with more questions than answers. His game had begun to show signs of age as he entered his mid-40s, and Lefty’s world ranking had plummeted to No. 34 entering the year.
But he experienced nothing short of a renaissance, thriving under the tutelage of Andrew Getson and appearing once again to enjoy his time inside the ropes. Mickelson finished T-3 in his first start in Palm Springs, followed by a runner-up at Pebble Beach and was one of the game’s most captivating storylines for much of the spring.
Granted, the discussion wasn’t always positive. Mickelson joined Rickie Fowler as the only top-ranked players to miss the cut at the Masters, Players Championship and U.S. Open, and in May he was ordered to pay back over $1 million as part of a federal insider trading probe.
But despite any off-course distractions, Mickelson managed to turn back the clock at a point in his career when some players are simply counting down the days to PGA Tour Champions life.
Mickelson’s year included a pair of highlights, first at The Open. It was at Royal Troon that he nearly broke the all-time major championship scoring record in the opening round, then battled Henrik Stenson down the stretch in a duel for the ages. He fell short against the Swede, denied a second sip from the claret jug, but showed that he could still compete on the game’s biggest stages.
Then, of course, there was the Ryder Cup.
Mickelson had put himself under the microscope with his takedown of Tom Watson at Gleneagles in 2014, comments that led to an overhaul of the entire American approach to the matches. He then turned up the heat by taking another captain, Hal Sutton, to task before the matches began.
But his tactics provided a much-needed spark for the American squad, and Mickelson capped the week in style with a brilliant 10-birdie performance to edge Sergio Garcia in a singles’ match that will be talked about for years to come.
It all combined to make the American romp at Hazeltine, their first since 2008, a little bit sweeter for the man who qualified for his 11th straight Ryder Cup team on merit.
He has always had the flash, and he has long generated strong opinions among legions of golf fans. But this year, even though the individual trophies may have eluded him, Mickelson showed that at 46 years young he still has the chops to hang with stars half his age – and rekindled hopes that a sixth major title may still someday end up on his shelf.
2016 Big Year For Mickelson