Why Phil Mickelson Is Just Short of Being an All-Time Great

Steve Silverman@@profootballboyFeatured ColumnistDecember 30, 2012

SINGAPORE - NOVEMBER 10:  Phil Mickelson of USA plays his 2nd shot on the 11th hole during the continuation of the rain delayed second round of the Barclays Singapore Open at the Sentosa Golf Club on November 10, 2012 in Singapore.  (Photo by Stanley Chou/Getty Images)
Stanley Chou/Getty Images

Phil Mickelson has never won a U.S. Open.

He has never won a British Open.

Lefty has won a lot of tournaments over his 22-year professional career and ranks tied for ninth with 40 victories throughout his time on the PGA tour.

In any given tournament, he can be a formidable opponent. However, when it comes to walking with the greats, Mickelson is a couple of foursomes behind the giants of the game.

Based on the numbers, the best golfers in the history of the PGA tour are Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Sam Snead and Ben Hogan.

In the next group. Arnold Palmer, Billy Casper, Walter Hagen and Byron Nelson would give the first four a pretty good run for its money.

The numbers say Phil Mickelson, Tom Watson, Cary Middlecoff and Gene Sarazen would be next. However, if it was my tournament, I'd move Mickelson down a foursome and make sure that Gary Player had a place to compete with that third grouping.

Mickelson has won the Masters three times, and he has also secured one PGA championship.

Player, a South African native, won 24 tournaments on the PGA tour, but he was an international player who competed all over the globe.

What distinguishes Player and puts him significantly above Mickelson on the rankings are his nine majors. Player has won three green jackets, just like Mickelson. However, he has also won three British Opens, two PGA titles and one U.S. Open.

Player combined a steadiness on the course with the guts to make the big shot at the right moment. Nobody ever said that Mickelson did not have enough courage on the course, but he often goes so far in that direction that his play can be called reckless.

He takes too many chances, and he puts himself in trouble.

That could be indicative of an overall lack of confidence. It's as if Mickelson is saying, "I'm not really good enough, so I better take a few extra chances."

Why would Mickelson feel that way?

Mickelson turned professional in 1992. It was clear from the beginning how skilled he was and that he would be a top pro for many years.

But as the years went by, Mickelson could not win a major. The pressure kept mounting until 2004, when he won his first Masters.

Going 12 years without a major when you are supposed to be the No. 1 or No. 2 player on the tour is significant. While the pressure of being the best player "never to have won a major" has dissipated, Mickelson is well behind the best players in the game's history in terms of majors won. He takes that distinction with him every time he tees the ball up.

That's where the best players stand out from their competitors.

They don't get shattered by the pressure of winning the most important tournaments; they rise up and play their best golf.

Mickelson has merely flashed that ability.

He can't win the U.S. Open and he can't win the British.

Mickelson is one of the most talented players of all time, and he was one of the best on the tour for years.

However, Mickelson does not walk with the all-time greats. He's at least a couple of foursomes behind.