WE CONVENED A PANEL OF SI GOLF EXPERTS—SENIOR WRITERS MICHAEL BAMBERGER, DAMON HACK, ALAN SHIPNUCK AND GARY VAN SICKLE AS WELL AS SPECIAL CONTRIBUTOR JOHN GARRITY—AND A PGA TOUR PRO (WHO PARTICIPATED ON THE CONDITION OF ANONYMITY) TO ANSWER THESE AND OTHER QUESTIONS
The Book Of Phil
Van Sickle: It's almost showtime at Pebble Beach, and that apparently means it's Phil's time. Mickelson has to be the favorite to win the Open, don't you think? After the Masters he's coming to Pebble with some serious swagger.
Shipnuck: Phil didn't simply win the Masters; his was a dominating performance. Only three guys have ever shot lower scores in Masters history. That was tremendous stuff. Phil has a lot of good mojo at Pebble. He's won there, and it's close to home, so Amy and the kids will probably come up on the weekend, which will be a big boost for him. It's one of the best venues for him to win an Open. St. Andrews is probably the best venue for him to win a British. And he finished sixth at Whistling Straits [in 2004], so Phil knows if he can pick this one off at Pebble, anything's possible this year.
Hack: Phil is feeling it now. He's not afraid of Tiger anymore, that's for sure. It's Phil's world until Tiger says otherwise, and lately Tiger has been muted.
Van Sickle: What about all those painful near misses? Phil has a record five seconds in the Open. Is he carrying too much baggage to ever win this thing?
Garrity: How many times have we said he'll never recover from some final-round collapse only to have him bounce back with a winning performance? If we've learned anything about Lefty, it's that he's not burdened by past failures. Either that or he's got a redcap handling his baggage. Of course Phil can win the Open. Unless he's channeling Sam Snead. He has the short-game skills to deal with the Open's baffling greens and ankle-deep rough. If you need to hit a wedge three feet in the air with a full swing, Phil's your guy. I still think he'll win at least one Open.
Shipnuck: I talked to Phil for 40 minutes for a story for next week's issue. He's not discouraged at all. He still feels that he'll win an Open, and I think he'll win more than one. He sees those runner-up finishes as proof that he's going to do it, not as something negative.
Anonymous Pro: Yeah, one of Phil's great gifts is that he has amnesia. Everybody has written him off numerous times, as John said. Phil's a little like Tiger: When you challenge him and say he can't do something, he'll surprise you and do it. You can't hide talent like his.
Shipnuck: The setup may favor Phil, too. Mike Davis of the USGA talked about a risk-reward setup. The USGA wants to tempt players into taking on the ocean and these small targets, so this will be some of the shortest rough at a U.S. Open. That puts it right in Phil's wheelhouse.