Tiger Woods is No. 1 ' to that, there is no debate. However, there is always the discussion as to who is No. 2.
Once again, Phil Mickelson was a part of that much-talked-about subject, along with Ernie Els.
Mickelson won twice on the PGA Tour this season, and finished second on the money list. Els also had two official tour wins, including the British Open. In addition, he prevailed twice on the European circuit and captured the $2 million first-place prize at the Nedbank Golf Challenge.
In the eyes of many, Els is the second-best player in the world. But, officially, Mickelson is ranked second; Els is third. And, statistically speaking, the same is true.
In eight statistical categories ' driving distance, driving accuracy, scoring average, putting, greens in regulation, birdies per round, eagles per round and all-around ' Mickelson is the runaway head-to-head winner in 2002.
Mickelson led Els in seven of the eight areas, with the big South African edging the lefthander ' 69.50 to 69.58 ' in scoring average.
The greater comparison was Mickelson to himself over the past three seasons, where the numbers have been quite similar.
His PGA Tour rankings in driving distance, accuracy and greens hit in regulation have had the ebb and flow of a normal Mickelson round. For instance, he was ranked 125th on the tour in driving accuracy in 2000, 78th in 2001 and 129th this past year.
But there are a few categories where hes been consistently dominant. One of those areas ' surprisingly or not ' is with the flatstick ' or whatever space-age concoction hes using nowadays.
2002 ' 5th (PGA Tour rank)
2001 ' 2nd
2000 ' 3rd
2002 ' 4th
2001 ' 4th
2000 ' 2nd
2002 ' 1st
2001 ' 1st
2000 ' 3rd
Mickelson has also been predictable in his earnings ' hes finished second on the money list each of the past three years, and in the major championship department ' 0-for-ever.
In other numbers this past season, John Daly topped the tour in driving distance (306.8-yard average) for the eighth consecutive year, and 11th time overall. Boo Weekley was second on that list, and Matthew Goggin third. None of the three finished better than 112th on the money list.
Of course, you drive for show and putt for dough, right? Not if you ask Bob Heintz. He set a tour putting record (1.682 average putts per greens hit in regulation) this year and finished 192nd in earnings.
Speaking of putting, Mark Calcavecchia tied the tour mark for one tournament when he needed only 93 putts at the Greater Greensboro Chrysler Classic, where he finished second. And Stan Utley set a tour record when he needed only six putts for nine holes at the Air Canada Championship.
In the ironman department, John Rollins played the most rounds (120), and Kenneth Staton and Woody Austin played in the most events (36).
J.P. Hayes tied the tour record for consecutive birdies when he made eight in a row in the first round of the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic.
David Toms had the most rounds in the 60s this year (56), and also set a single-season earnings record ($3,461,794) without a victory.
There were a record 18 first-time winners this season ' breaking the old mark of 14 set in 1991. On the whole, nine players in their 20s won, 24 in their 30s and five in their 40s.
The toughest event of the year was easily the U.S. Open, where the par-70 Bethpage Black Course played to a stroke average of 74.901. Meanwhile, a new tour record was established at the Disney Golf Classic when the cut came at 6-under par.
K.J. Choi owned the largest victory margin, with a seven-shot victory at the Tampa Bay Classic. He was also one of only two players to win wire-to-wire this year. Woods accomplished that feat at the U.S. Open and WGC-American Express Championship.
Len Mattiace (Fed Ex St. Jude Classic), Spike McRoy (B.C. Open) and Rollins (Bell Canadian Open) all made up seven strokes in the final round to win, the largest such deficits overcome this season.
Jeff Sluman was the tours best in par-3 scoring average (2.936); Chris Riley led on the par-4s (3.95) and Woods was No. 1 on the par-5s (4.44).
Woods made the cut in all 18 tour events he started in 2002. He has now extended his consecutive cuts made streak to 96 in a row. Byron Nelson owns the record at 113, but by the end of 2003, Tiger is likely to be No. 1.