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Hot Seat: Phil the Burn

Phil Mickelson
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KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA - FEBRUARY 13: Wen-tang Lin of Chinese Taipei in action during the round two of the 2009 Maybank Malaysian Open at Saujana Golf and Country Club on February 13, 2009 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)  - 

You might want to loosen your collar, it can get warm in here.

It’s time to see who is taking their place on golf’s Hot Seat this week.

Here’s our special heat index with the PGA Tour making its way to the Humana Challenge, with the European Tour to the Volvo Golf Champions and with the Champions Tour opening its season at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai.

Smokin’ britches – Phil Mickelson

It’s difficult to believe Mickelson will turn 42 this summer.

It’s equally difficult to believe he has slipped to No. 15 in the Official World Golf Ranking.

Lefty will be looking to halt his slide when he tees it up at the Humana Challenge.

When last year opened, Mickelson was No. 4 in the world ranking. For the longest time, Tiger Woods was the only American ranked ahead of him. Now, Mickelson is just the sixth highest ranked American. Which way will he go in the rankings this year? Back up the ladder? Or farther down it? That’s a Hot Seat question.

Lefty’s fans love that he is making an earlier-than-normal start to his season, his first return to La Quinta in five years, and they are hoping he can win this event for the third time. He captured the Bob Hope Classic in ’04 and ’02.

Bill Clinton

Bhut Jolokia chili pepper hot – Bill Clinton

No mulligans this week for the former president, if he decides to play while hosting the Humana Challenge. When you are accustomed to dropping second balls, that is pressure.

Actually, if make-up shots would get Clinton to play this week, let’s play two on every tee. Clinton brings a welcomed new presence to the event, whether he plays or not. He may not be a golf star, but he’s the biggest star there this week. Clinton loves the game, and he has loads of charm. There is still an open spot alongside Greg Norman in the pro-am pairings, and there is speculation that Clinton will fill it. The revised pro-am format will feature just 144 amateurs this year, down from 388 last year, and will be played over 72 holes instead of 90, on three courses instead of four. Those are good changes right off the bat with the Clinton Foundation now connected to the event.

Dustin Johnson

High noon at Volcano Springs – Dustin Johnson

Johnson is the highest ranked player in the Humana Challenge, but he has more rust to work off than most pros making their 2012 debuts.

Seven weeks ago, Johnson underwent surgery to repair cartilage in his right knee. He played with discomfort since the middle of summer before taking care of the problem at season’s end. This week marks Johnson’s first event since the Presidents Cup in Australia in November. If Johnson wins this week, he will have won in each of his first five years on the PGA Tour. Nobody has done that since Tiger Woods hit the Tour.

Charl Schwartzel

Serengeti Sunburn II – Charl Schwartzel

Going for a three-peat at the Joburg Open last week, Schwartzel missed the cut.

With the Volvo Golf Champions the third leg of the South African swing on the front of the European Tour schedule, Schwartzel doesn’t want to be missing the cut in back-to-back weeks in his homeland. Schwartzel, by the way, is the first player to make it on our Hot Seat in back-to-back weeks. Volvo Golf Champions sports a decent field at the Links at Fancourt. Ernie Els, Retief Goosen, Padraig Harrington, Louis Oosthuizen, Darren Clarke, Robert Karlsson, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Thomas Bjorn and Matteo Manassero are scheduled to play.

Bernhard Langer

Bengay burn – Bernhard Langer

A thumb injury sidelined Langer for three months last year, hurting his bid to win a fourth consecutive Jack Nicklaus Player of the Year trophy on the Champions Tour. Langer also suffered through knee and ankle injuries. He is back at this week's Mitsubishi Electric Championship in Hawaii, looking to show Tom Lehman, Fred Couples, John Cook, Mark Calcavecchia and Kenny Perry that he’s still a force in the battle for that tour’s top honors.