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Phil Mickelson with Green JacketNO. There’s a huge difference between the top 10 golfers who ever played and the top 10 most popular golfers of all time. While Phil Mickelson projects an engaging, likable personality, his career does not make my top 10 list as best players that ever lived, and, he barely makes my top 20. What I find nauseating about Phil Mickelson’s career is the way the golf media and fans fall over him no matter how many times he chokes. The guy wins the US Amateur in 1990 and for fourteen long years carries the moniker as “Bear-apparent” and “best player to never win a major” until the 2004 Masters. The talking heads at The Golf Channel, Jim Nantz (CBS) and Dan Hicks (NBC) can’t find enough beautiful words to describe the 42-year old known as “Lefty,” but he should be known as “Choke.”

Golf maggots like Tim Geary fawn all over Phil Mickelson for reasons I will never understand. Phil Mickelson is a supreme choker, and perhaps, no one since Seve Ballesteros drove the ball so poorly, but had such a magical short game to save his game from complete embarrassment. Remember the US Open at Winged Foot in 2006? Mickelson was standing on the tee at the last hole needing par to win. Under intense pressure he hit a drive 150 yards dead left that was last seen enjoying corporate hospitality. He lost because he choked in one of the most pivotal shots in a golfer’s career!

When Jim Furyk choked at the US Open at Olympic Club in 2012 that’s what the media talks about when Furyk’s name is brought up, even though he’s third in all-time career earnings, behind Tiger and Phil. Never is said a discouraging word when Phil’s name is mentioned even by noted golf critics such as Johnny Miller and Brandel Chamblee, who both tell it like it is. With his goofy, gawky smile, there seems to be a genuine love for Mickelson among American golf fans, while even at the height of his golf prowess there was only respect for Tiger Woods. A real rivalry between Woods and Mickelson never developed because Phil was never good enough! Mickelson’s winning formula combines a great golf game with a telegenic personality, including carefully choreographed family hugging ceremonies after winning the 2010 Masters, and most recently, the British Open at Muirfield in July. He projects family man first, golfer second, which has proven wildly profitable with off-course endorsements estimated at about $40 million annually. Smiling and signing autographs in front of TV cameras has paid big dividends in Phil’s popularity with fans.

From my view on the Lazy-Boy recliner, Phil Mickelson is over-rated and over-hyped, but to his credit his final-round comeback (66) at Muirfield at this year’s British Open was an historic win, and means he’s in the mix with some of the greatest names to play the game. Even with five majors, nine European Tour wins and 42 PGA Tour titles, which is the ninth-most ever, my tabulation shows 19 better all-time golf careers than Mickelson’s.

First, we have the two best players of all time (1)Tiger Woods and (2) Jack Nicklaus. Then in descending order: (3) Ben Hogan (4) Sam Snead (5) Arnold Palmer (6) Tom Watson (7) Byron Nelson (8) Walter Hagen (9) Gene Sarazen (10) Greg Norman (11) Bobby Jones (12) Nick Faldo (13) Seve Ballesteros (14) Gary Player (15) Lee Trevino (16) Payne Stewart (17) Harry Vardon (18) Francis Ouimet (19) Ted Ray (20) Phil Mickelson.

Although noteworthy in many ways, no one should confuse the careers of Chi Chi Rodriquez or Fuzzy Zoeller with greatness. Those two players featured personality and a genuine likeability factor that translated into tons of good press, which probably inflated their actual golf talent. Has Mickelson’s career been inflated by an adoring press? Can you even remember when someone actually publicly criticized the almighty Phil Mickelson? What’s strange about Mickelson’s 23-year career is that we are having this conversation and he has never been ranked the No. 1 player in the world at any time. Whether or not Phil Mickelson is one of the 10 best players who has ever lived was probably not a conversation before this year’s British Open, but it’s definitely a conversation now!

Tom Gorman, a hack golf writer, has been associated with

nauseating golf writing for more than 20 years.

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