Mickelson victorious following self-imposed hiatus
BY Bruce Young | US PGA Tour | 2002 Bob Hope Chrysler Classic | Wrap | 21 Jan 2003
Phil Mickelson produced a quite outstanding performance to win the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic his first start in nearly five months on the US PGA Tour.
Mickelson’s last event was the NEC World Golf Championship event in Ohio in August where he had finished 8th a week after his second behind Toms at the PGA. He has since spent quality time with his family including his new born baby and the break which included considerable time without even touching a club seems to have worked wonders.
This performance, however, is as much a reflection on Mickelson’s great talents as it is on the benefits of a break. To have been able to produce golf of any quality, given the time he has been away from the competitive arena, would have in itself have been significant but to have been in or near contention for so much of this 90 hole event speaks volumes for not only Mickelson’s great skills but his competitive nature.
Many say that Mickelson has shown vulnerability when near the lead but his record does not back that up. This was his fifth win in six playoffs and despite the fact that he still cops a lot of unfair and unnecessary criticism for his inability to yet win a major he is the number two player in the game and has developed a consistency that reflects that position in the game. I fully expect Mickelson to win a major this year and do not be surprised if it comes at Augusta. He does not play the British Open well and so it will likely be one of the other three and he has shown in the past that Augusta and he are not far from being permanent lovers.
His playoff win was over 33-year-old David Berganio whose best placing to date was interestingly enough a third behind Mickelson in last year’s Greater Hartford Open. Bergiano has mixed his career between the Regular and Buy.Com Tours and gained his current card via the secondary tour in 2000. His disappointment in not securing his first win will be tempered by the fact that in one event he has virtually secured enough money to secure his playing privileges for 2003.
Another recent recruit from the Buy.Com Tour Briny Baird was tied for third along with Cameron Beckman with last week’s winner Jerry Kelly still walking on clouds no doubt in fifth. A number of other performances worthy of mention include Charles Howell who continues to impress. His third round of 71 proved costly when such low scoring was the order of the day. He is destined for a great career however.
Of the Australians both the new boys on the block John Senden and Rod Pampling recovered from the unsettling experience of missing the cut in their first event last week with fine performances. Senden was in or near the lead for a long time throughout the event eventually finishing 13th and a cheque for $US77,000 his reward. Senden has always given the impression that he has the swing and ball striking skills to succeed at close to the highest level. Now that he is playing on a tour where better courses demand better ball striking it may well allow him to shine. The same could be said for Buy.Com Tour recruit Rod Pampling who finished in a tie for 21st and a cheque for around $US40,000.
It may be that the format of this event namely the pro am format for the first four days provided the opportunity for players such as Senden and Pampling to settle into the rigours of the USPGA Tour. With this experience behind them and the confidence that it may bring look for further good showings Geoff Ogilvy after a very slow start stormed home for 31st, New Zealander Grant Waite 42nd and Stuart Appleby 62nd.
The Tour now heads to Scottsdale Arizona for the Phoenix Open where Mickelson will back up and Ty Tryon plays an event on invitation. Whilst qualified to play the Tour Tryon is not eligible due to age constraints whereby he cannot utilise his card until turning 18 in June. This is one of seven invitations he can take advantage of prior to then.