More than anyone of his generation Phil Mickelson has come to exemplify the competitive and personal demeanor of the King, Arnold Palmer. Whether it Phil’s swashbuckling willingness to take on any risk/reward shot, his penchant for coming from back in the pack with a scintillating charge, or his connection with the burgeoning crowd thing. He even freely proliferates Arnie’s signature thumbs gesture to any man, woman, or child with whom he can make eye contact.
Playing in front of a quasi home crowd at the Waste Management Phoenix Open this week, Phil was driving it in play, sticking it close, making the putts, and smiling on all burners as he scorched TPC Scottsdale with a 28-under total on his way to his 41st PGA Tour win. The adoration meter was in the red zone all week as the locals cheered him to his record sixth win in the Valley of the Sun.
Only a full Seabiscuit lip-out on the final putt on Thursday kept Phil from a folkloric 59 in the first round. On day two he needed par on 18 to set the tour record for low 36-hole score ever on tour only to find the water off the tee and make double. By the end of day Saturday he was 24-under carding a 64 for a six shot lead over Brandt Snedeker.
It was a bit of a grind on Sunday with Sneds parlaying a 31 on the front side and catching Phil’s full attention. Within four shots after a birdie on 6 Sneds threw down the gauntlet sticking it to 10 feet on the par 3 seventh. Phil delivered the required message with an over-hill, over-dale 55-foot putting effort that traveled across 20 feet of fringe before finding the bottom of the cup for birdie. His five birdies on the day were good for a 67 and a four-shot margin at the end of the day.
Bones Mackay, Phil’s longtime wingman has seen it all over the years but he has never witnessed one man’s mastery of the three pars like he has this week. Phil had nine 2’s on the par threes for the week-on Thursday alone he had a total of 8 shots for the day on the short holes. Now that is some kind of distance control with your irons.
The Waste Management is known for huge crowds (179,000 on Saturday alone) and raucous revelry in the coliseum atmosphere of the 16th hole and no one stirred them like their favorite son Phil when he stuck it to two feet on Saturday.
At the end of the day the biggest winner is the PGA Tour who, in the first five weeks of the 2013 season, has seen both Tiger and Phil dominate on their way to victory. Seems to me there could be a bushel full of thumbs up come the Masters in April.