Tiger Sucked but Phil Blew It
By Stephanie Wei under PGA Tour

Opportunity knocked Phil Mickelson for a loop at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. With the stage set for him to finally oust Tiger Woods from the number-one spot in the world rankings, Mickelson couldn’t bring it home. He needed to finish in the top four, which, of course, isn’t usually that easy, but he was T2 after two rounds and T10 after three rounds.

Woods shot a miserable 77 in the morning for his worst closing round as a professional and finished T78 in an 80 player field — that’s second to DFL. He hit a spectator, the pond and an almost shank. So you figure, Mickelson’s got number one in the bag, right? Thing is, you never know with Lefty. He’s had the opportunity to dethrone Tiger basically every week in the past two months, but he’s failed to deliver.

Mickelson posted a six-over 41 on the front nine. That’s not just a bad day — that’s horrendous for a player of his caliber. Everyone is allowed a free pass every now and again because, well, this game is hard. But, seriously? I didn’t think anyone would come in with a score worse than a 77 and then I heard Mickelson shot eight-over 78. Those are the best two players in the world!

“I don’t know what to say,” Mickelson said. “I mean, then the round obviously got away. But it didn’t feel like it was far off. But it turned out to be.”

Let’s see, well, you knew how poorly Tiger played and he basically teed it up for Mickelson to dethrone him. The door was wide open and it has been for a while, but it was wider than it’s ever been this week. To Mickelson’s credit, he played well in the first two rounds to cruise to a top-four finish. But, no, that choking dog! Now choke is a strong word, but I’m going to use it. He knew exactly what was on the line and played atrociously.

How much does number one even matter, anyway?

Well, it really shouldn’t matter much because the ranking system makes no sense and I bet any player would rather win a bunch of majors than be ranked number one. But I think it matters more to Tiger and Phil than they let on. It’s simple — ego. Regardless of what being number one actually means, those guys want to reach the top. It’s escaped Mickelson for his entire career and it’s definitely something he’d like to knock off his bucket list.

Say what you will about the rankings. At the end of their careers, people will look back on how many major championships they won and not how many weeks they were the number-one golfer in the world (unless it’s a record-breaking number of weeks). But for the player, it serves as instant gratification and a confidence boost. Who doesn’t want to be considered the best?

After last week’s dismal performances, neither Tiger nor Phil deserves it.

But golf is more fun when both are playing well. Please find your games, guys. Or perhaps this is the beginning of a new era, where the younger players start to shine week-in and week-out.

“Yeah, if I keep finishing ahead of them every week eventually it’ll happen, but the problem is there’s guys behind me that will pass me because I’m not playing well enough right now,” Mickelson said. “I’ve got some work to do to get my own game sharp.”

Will the next number-one player please step up?

(AP Photo/Amy Sancetta)