Phil Mickelson may be better remembered for the tournaments he didn’t win instead of the four major championships he did capture. Five times Mickelson finished the U.S. Open as the runner-up, left to wonder “what if”.
Mickelson has endured playing in the “Tiger Era”. Woods owns 14 major championships, all won during Mickelson’s prime. Even when Woods wasn’t present in major championships during his personal and physical trouble, Mickelson wasn’t the beneficiary of the best player in the game not in the major championship mix.
Mickelson’s already a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame. But where will he truly rank among golf’s greatest of all time and what impact would a U.S. Open victory this week have on your answer to this question?
If you look at the games greatest players, only Sam Snead doesn’t own a U.S. Open title. Nicklaus (4), Woods (3), Jones (4), Hogan (4), Palmer (1), Nelson (1), Player (1), Hagen (2), Watson (1), Vardon (1), Sarazen (2), Trevino (2) and Casper (2). You can argue the order these players should be ranked, but absent a U.S. Open victory it’s safe to say Mickelson doesn’t belong anywhere inside this top 15.
Mickelson would currently join the group of Nick Faldo (6 majors), Seve Ballesteros (5 majors), Raymond Floyd (4 majors), Ernie Els (4 majors), Vijay Singh (3 majors), Hale Irwin (3 majors), Payne Stewart (3 majors), Larry Nelson (3 majors) and Nick Price (3 majors).
A victory by Woods gets his him one win closer to Nicklaus’ 18, but it won’t be the major win that is ultimately remembered when he retires. If Stricker or Luke Donald breaks through and wins their first major it could very well be the win that puts them in the World Golf Hall of Fame someday. If recent history continues and a first time major champion takes down the U.S. Open championship, the win welcomes a new member to the fraternity.
So when you consider what this championship means to a particular player, a victory this week at Merion Golf Club arguably means more to Phil Mickelson’s legacy in the game of golf than it will to any other player in the field.