The coronavirus pandemic has hit a giant pause button on fans being able to watch golf on TV, and in some cases, even kept people off courses. But while we hunker down and hope for a speedy return to normalcy, we can also use this time as an opportunity to learn more about the game we love. Here’s our latest installment of “Did you know?”
Phil Mickelson is unquestionably one of the greatest golfers of all time due to an impressive and eclectic résumé. Sure, there are the 44 PGA Tour titles and five major championships, but he’s also the only golfer to spend more than a quarter century consecutively inside the top 50 of the Official World Golf Ranking, and we’re pretty sure he’s the only golfer to win a $9 million match when he won “The Match” against Tiger Woods in 2018. We’re only pretty sure about the latter because who knows how much Bill Gates or Warren Buffett have played for. Or Michael Jordan for that matter.
Despite all of Mickelson’s accomplishments, though, there are two surprising things Lefty has left to accomplish in his illustrious career. Well, besides winning a U.S. Open and completing the career Grand Slam. Considering he’s finished runner-up a record six times in our national championship, that should probably count as a third surprising thing.
Except golf fans aren’t surprised by that fact. In fact, they’re probably more aware of those six close calls than the five times he’s won a major elsewhere. And they’ll be reminded of that even more if the 2020 U.S. Open at Winged Foot ever happens. No, we’re talking about something much, much more surprising. For all his success, somehow, Phil Mickelson has never been officially the best player on the planet—either by metrics or by a vote of his peers.
Yep, that’s right. Despite record longevity near the top of the top 50 of the Official World Golf Ranking and reaching No. 2 on many occasion, Mickelson has never been ranked No. 1. Not once. Not even for one week. Even Tom Lehman was No. 1 for one week. During Mickelson’s career, during Mickelson’s career no less. Reminder: Phil Mickelson has won five majors. Tom Lehman has won five PGA Tour titles total.
At the time of this post, the No. 1 ranking has changed hands 66 times since Mickelson turned pro in 1992. Even more astonishing? TWENTY different golfers not named Mickelson have held the top spot during his career. In addition to Lehman, who at least won one major, that includes the likes of Lee Westwood and Luke Donald. No offense to those guys, but they’re no Phil Mickelson.
So if that’s surprising thing No. 1, what’s No. 2? Well, Mickelson has also never won PGA Tour Player of the Year. Again, not once. Granted, it’s tough playing in the Tiger Woods Era, but take away Tiger’s 11 POY Awards (LOL), and there have still been 16 other full seasons played by Mickelson on tour that didn’t result in him winning a vote by his peers. Donald has won one. Mark O’Meara has won one. Jim Furyk won one during a year in which Mickelson won the Masters. Crazy. Then again, 2010 was just a crazy year in general.
Anyway, when it comes to these accolades, Mickelson’s timing has just been a bit off. Of course, these holes in an otherwise sterling résumé don’t do much to diminish this legend and they certainly won’t keep Mickelson out of the World Golf Hall of Fame. In fact, he was inducted eight years ago, before he won his last of five majors. But they are bizarre for a player of his caliber. And considering Phil turns 50 next month, we’re pretty sure neither are going to happen for him. Considering how his bank account has grown along the way, we’re also pretty sure he’ll be OK.