This morning, Phil Mickelson added his 44thvictory on the PGA Tour by winning the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am for the 5thtime. Phil, who will likely play on the PGA Tour until he physically cannot anymore, has cemented himself as one of the best golfers of his era, but is he a top 10 golfer all-time?
My answer: Yes.
Phil has been able to endure a long 29-year PGA Tour career. His first win came as an amateur in the 1991 Northern Telecom Open in Tuscon. Phil currently ranks top-10 in all times wins at 44 and is tied for 14th all-time with 5 major victories. Yet to join the elusive career Grand Slam list, Phil is one of only 16 players in history to win 3 of the 4 major championships. Of course, we all know about the record 6 runner-up finishes at the U.S. Open that seem to haunt Phil.
Not only has he had one of the most historic PGA Tour careers, but he is highly regarded as one of the greatest collegiate golfers of all-time, where he tallied 16 wins and 3 NCAA Individual Titles at Arizona State. Not only that, but he also won the 1990 U.S. Amateur Championship, and his first professional victory came as an amateur.
In his career, Phil never reached the pinnacle of being ranked No. 1 in the world. Most of us would understand why, as most his career consisted of battling against one of the greatest players of all-time, Tiger Woods. Tiger dominated the late 90’s and into the early 2000’s. Tiger, who currently sits at 80 wins and 14 major championships, is highly regarded as the greatest player of all-time in many circles. There is something to be said about competing your entire career against possibly the greatest player of all-time. Phil was able to amass an outstanding career against top notch competition, when technology started to greatly change, and so did the game.
If Tiger wasn’t in Phil’s era, would Phil have won 60+ times or 8+ majors? These are questions that we will always wonder, but we can without a doubt, agree that Phil has had one of the best careers of all-time. Sitting in front of Phil on the win’s list are names like Snead, Woods, Nicklaus, Hogan, Palmer, Nelson, Casper, and Hagen. Of course, in this sport there is a certain level of importance put on major championships wins, when defining a player’s career and greatness. Phil, sitting tied for 14th on the all-time major list, has names like Watson, Vardon, Player, Jones, Sarazen, Trevino, and Faldo sitting ahead of him (along with others) with more majors wins. Does Phil Mickelson compare to some of those names? Because he has more wins than all those names listed.
So how do we define a top 10 player? Is it major wins? Is it all-time wins? Or maybe it’s the career portfolio when everything is all said and done. I believe that if you put together the career that Phil has had over time, then he is a top 10 player. I understand that great players have come before him and laid the groundwork for what the game is today, and I’m also not going to run through the list and say Phil is better than them all. They all played in different eras and different times, but what Phil has done in his career I think stands out more, by winning more. The thing is, golf has become better than ever, and at 48 years old Phil is still winning. Many had ruled Phil out from winning ever again in his career, but with 2 wins in the past year, he has proven many people wrong and that his game is able to stand up against the young guns of today.
If you were picking pieces of any player to ultimately build one super player, I’m sure most people would think to pick the short game of Phil Mickelson to add to their arsenal. Phil has been able to leave his mark on golf for the greatness that he is, and because of that I believe that Phil has had a top 10 PGA Tour career. If Phil is able to win a U.S. Open before it is all said and done and complete the career grand slam, then he will only solidify himself even further in the career top 10 list and one of the greatest players ever.
The U.S. Open comes back to Pebble Beach in June. It would be a special one, wouldn’t it?