Phil MickelsonYes! There, I’ve finally done it. I’ve lowered my standards all the way down to Gorman’s. I’ve used a one word lead to open my debate, which this month is: “Is Phil Mickelson one of the top 10 players of all time?” Usually I try to come up with a more insightful, thought provoking lead to this column, but for once I’ll use the simple, Gormanesqe approach because it’s so appropriate.

We don’t really need to delve very deeply into this subject matter because the answer is so damn simple. YES! The other part of the debate was supposed to ask, “Is Phil Mickelson the greatest left-handed golfer of all time?” But that’s like asking if Alan Shepard was the best golfer to ever play on the moon? I mean, who is the competition? Bob Charles (who for years was called the best left-handed golfer of all time), Steve Flesch, Russ Cochran? Okay, Mike Weir and Bubba Watson at least have some pedigree but they only get to be honorable mention.

The only way that Mickelson doesn’t own that title is if you disqualify him because he really isn’t left-handed at all. Phil does everything else righthanded. He only learned to swing a golf club from the other side because his father had the little guy mirror daddy’s swing and mirrors tend to be dyslexic. As to whether Phil is one of the top 10 players of all time? I think that answer is obvious, but at least there’s a little meat on which to chomp.

Wouldn’t be if he had just bagged that stupid driver at Winged Foot and not put his 72nd hole tee shot onto the top of a tent. Wouldn’t be if he had won all four of golf’s majors instead of three. But his six second place finishes in the U.S. Open (second in that regard only to Jack Nicklaus’ seven) should be considered more a measure of the man’s greatness than an albatross on his resume. And let’s examine this resume. After winning his lone U.S. Amateur championship (he is the only player ever to win an NCAA and U.S. Am in the same year), Mickelson has won 42 PGA Tour events, five international titles and five majors (three Masters, one British, this year, and one PGA). Not many others can match that record. Certainly no left-handed playing person can.

So who might we rank ahead of Phil and not necessarily in order? Jack, Arnie, Tiger, Sam Snead, Ben Hogan, Walter Hagen, Lee Trevino, Byron Nelson, Bobby Jones, Gary Player, Gene Sarazen? That’s 11 all-time greats, which if you rank them ahead of Mickelson, gives Gorman a victory in this debate. This just reinforces my case, because Gorman is ALWAYS wrong!

But the only players on that list who are absolutely ahead of Phil are Jack, Arnie, Tiger, Snead, Hogan and perhaps Player and Nelson. The others are great but greater than Phil? How? Equal or just a cut below in my opinion. Consider the competition. Mickelson has done it in a time where the fields are deeper and more talented than ever before. Hell, he’s done it in the era of Tiger Woods. That alone should put him in the top 10.

It certainly would have helped if Phil had just closed the deal on one of those U.S. Opens, but even with that hole left gaping in his record, he has been one of this game’s all-timers. And the fact that he has done it in a swashbuckling, Arnold Palmer style should add, not subtract points. Phil, top 10? Absolutely.