Serious golf fans may remember how, back in 2005 and 2006, the debate of who the best golfer in the world was centered on two names: Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. It seems absurd; now, that people considered Phil Mickelson to be even close to the same level as Tiger Woods but back then the argument was made seriously. For Tiger the debate was nothing new. From almost the beginning of his career people began comparing him to the second best golfer in world and posing the question of who was better.
It happened with David Duval then Sergio Garcia and then it was Phil’s turn. As golf fans, we sensed greatness in Tiger but that wasn’t enough for us. We wanted someone that could almost rival his greatness and thereby give us great golf shootouts, unbelievable comebacks and winning putts on the 18th green. In short we wanted an Arnold Palmer to Tiger’s Jack Nicklaus.
Unfortunately, Tiger’s rivals came and went giving us moments of drama but not the year-in, year-out struggle for preeminence that would cement this time as golf’s golden age, an age of giants. David Duval played amazingly well between 1997 and 1999, winning eleven of thirty-four tournaments and for a brief moment taking the top spot in the world rankings but then he unexpectedly disappeared.
Sergio Garcia stormed into the golf world by finishing runner-up to Tiger at the 1999 PGA Championship. In 2000 he was chosen as Tiger’s match up in the much-anticipated Battle at Bighorn and surprised everybody by winning. At the age of 21 Garcia was chosen as the youngest player ever to participate in the Ryder Cup. It seemed that Garcia would be able to act as the perfect rival to compliment Tiger’s growing legend but then nothing really happened. Garcia managed to remain one of the world’s top-10 players but never really contested Tiger for the title of Greatest Golfer. To date Garcia has won eight tournaments on the PGA Tour, Tiger has won seventy-five.
Phil Mickelson emerged next but there was something different about him. Between 2004 and 2006 Phil won 3 majors (and nearly won three in row). For once there was a player that was playing on a level that only Tiger had seemingly reached before. Mickelson isn’t only successful in majors, however. To date he has won a very respectable forty-one tournaments on the PGA Tour. Sadly Mickelson was not able to maintain the level of play that led to his incredible run in 2006 and so, for the most part, the golf world had to admit that no one would be able to adequately fill the role of being Tiger’s chief rival.
Now in 2013 Tiger Woods appears to be making a comeback. His quest to become the greatest golfer of all time had seemed certain until the scandal broke out in his personal life. Now he is winning again and people have started wondering.
With all of this in mind it seems very fitting that just a week after Tiger won his historic 75th tournament, that Phil Mickelson would show up at the Phoenix Open and play possibly one of his greatest four rounds of golf ever. The way that Phil Mickelson was driving the ball and putting were once again at a level that nobody not named Tiger has ever reached. His performance was important for a number of reasons but most of all it should act as an indication that when we look back on this era of golf a few decades from now we might realize that Phil Mickelson really was Tiger Wood’s Arnold Palmer.
Phil Oscarson is an avid golfer and golf analyst. Phil currently resides in the greater Los Angeles area, because that’s the best weather for golf. You can find what you’re looking for in the golf world by going to AmericanGolf.com.