Assessing the golf season so far

by Dan M | Posted on Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

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There’s no all-star break in golf since there’s no all-star game.

But if there was, it would probably fall this week, the week after the U.S. Open and seven weeks until The Open Championship tees off at Muirfield. So now seems like an appropriate time to assess the golf season to this point. To do that, I would like to ask three questions that golf in 2013 has presented and then attempt to answer them.

Question 1: Congratulations to Justin Rose for being a worthy U.S. Open champion. But I have to confess, I was not sitting on the edge of my couch wondering if Rose was going to break through and win his first major. I’m no different from anyone else, so I wanted to see Phil Mickelson break through and win his first U.S. Open. Rose succeeded where Mickelson failed. So where does Mickelson fit in the galaxy of golf stars?

Mickelson’s golf stardom is greater than the sum of its parts.

This is pretty easy to explain. Lefty won three NCAA championships, a U.S. Amateur and the PGA Tour Northern Telecom Open before he turned pro, meaning he was lined up for greatness. He then won two tournaments in his first full season on tour. But it was 11 agonizing years before he won his first major. His Masters victory in 2004 was his 23rd pro win.

If Lefty had managed to catch and pass Justin Rose on Sunday or Monday, he would have five majors to his credit, which would tie him with Seve Ballesteros and he would be one short of Nick Faldo and Lee Trevino.

So to prove my point, just make a list with Seve Ballesteros, Phil Mickelson, Lee Trevino and Nick Faldo on it and pick which on is the biggest star.

Phil is not going to get to Jack Nicklaus’s 18 majors or Tigers 14 and probably won’t get to Tom Watson’s 8 or even Arnold Palmer’s 7. So he will never reach that level of actual golf greatness, but he’s still as big a star as those guys.

Having just written that, I convinced myself that it doesn’t matter that he didn’t win the U.S. Open on Sunday. It’s enough that we wanted him to win it.

Question 2:  Have Adam Scott and Justin Rose arrived as golf superstars?

The short answer here is “close but no cigar … yet.”

Both have impressive Wikipedia pages, which now include major victories. But because neither guy would stand out in a phone book, much less and mall, and because they’re not Americans, they need to notch a couple of more majors apiece to even fit in the Nick Faldo/Nick Price category of superstar.

Justin Rose has won five times on the PGA Tour and 14 times worldwide. He was already a star, though with probationary status. He’s certified now.

Same with Scott, who now has 9 PGA Tour wins and 21 worldwide.

The answers to Questions 1 and 2 lead me to the third question and they also start me on the way to answering it.

Question 3: Are we looking at a great golf season, a mediocre one or a weak one?

Well, combine the fact that Mickelson was in the running for the U.S. Open with the fact that it took a playoff to decide The Masters and we’re on the right track. It’s definitely not a weak season.

Add to that the fact that we saw a couple of guys, as previously stated, notch major victories as part of their logical progression as stars.

It’s a pretty good start.

But here’s the problem I have so far that I think might not get corrected with The Open or the PGA Championship: there hasn’t been an unforgettable moment yet. Last week, I put Scott’s Masters victory in the top 10, but I snuck it in there at No. 10, mostly in order to keep the list as current as possible. And the list is limited to golf events of the last 13-plus seasons.

So the answer is that it’s a mediocre to good season, but it needs some help to reach “great season” status.

Photo by Chad Conine

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