Sorry Phil, Duval was a Better Story

Another US Open ended Monday with the expected result for Phil Mickelson.  NBC, ESPN, and Golf Channel commentators alike praised him for his fifth career runner-up finish in the biggest tournament in golf’s calendar year.  I just wonder how long it is going to take everyone to realize that Phil is a massive choker.

I almost feel as if I am breaking some rule by writing negative things about the guy right now.  I commend Phil for his play in the tournament.  He said all the right things this week, and did not let what must be a very stressful and scary situation in his home life affect his game.

For a while, I thought Amy’s situation may actually help Mickelson in this tournament.  That may sound naive and emotionally unattached to the situation, but think about it for a second.  Towards the end of the final round Phil was playing against a lot of amateurs when it came to major championship pressure.  Tiger was lingering, but failed to make a big charge.  David Duval is a different golfer than he was when he dealt with his major pressure, and Retief Goosen took himself out of contention before the turn.

Phil has not only dealt with Major Championship pressure before, but honestly, he has bigger issues than golf pressure right now.  These guys are all seizing up worrying about making a putt and Phil is worried about someone across the country.  Maybe it worked against him, but a lot of athletes can thrive when their mind is off the task at hand.

From a Disney standpoint, though, David Duval was the big story.  Duval winning wouldn’t have been as big a deal in the media as Phil, (because they all have crushes on him for some reason) but it would have been a much bigger story in the grand scheme of golf.  Duval was ranked somewhere in the high 800’s before the tournament and among the worst on the tour in driving accuracy and GIR.  These are not the makings of a US Open champ.

But David took his new confidence and new athletic physique to Farmingdale knowing he had a shot.  If Duval doesn’t get stuck under the lip of a bunker on the par 3, 3rd hole there is a good chance he wins the Open.  If he bogeyed that hole he would have finished tied for first.  He also caught other bad breaks, but as he said, “everybody did.”  Whether or not Duval is back is yet to be seen, but it was nice to see a guy who fell off the face of the earth back in contention.  Even if he is wearing a XXL instead of his former medium.

The Phil story is intriguing.  His wife is sick with breast cancer.  She is doing okay, but there is such an unknown future when it comes to cancer.  Did we catch it early enough?  If we get rid of it will it come back?, and any light shined on cancer in the public eye is important because it is such an epidemic these days.  Cancer really affects everybody.  So I really do commend Phil for playing and just bringing attention to it.  The Pga does more charity work than any other sport, and hopefully cancer research benefits from the Mickelson’s situation.  Does this make me want to root for Phil, though?  A little more than usual, but not really.

David Duval’s story is inspiring.  This is a man who also knows the perils of cancer.  David lost his brother to Leukemia when they were teenagers.  A bone marrow transplant from David to his brother failed.  He gained success through college and early amateur years and rose all the way to number one in the world before losing his ability to make cuts.  Duval came alive with a 67 out of the gate this week, though.  He hit fairways, he has the same great putting stroke, and his formerly aloof behavior with crowds was seemingly gone.  This was a new golfer, a new body, a new man.

You were almost waiting for the trainwreck to happen everytime Duval got close to the top on Monday.  After the bad bunker break most thought he was out of the hunt, but in a charge that was in line with his “never quit” message for the week Duval almost pulled it off.

Don’t get me wrong.  I give Phil a ton of credit even for coming out and playing, but his second place finish at an Open is expected, and it is overshadowing a performance that should not be overlooked.  Duval fought against golf demons to fight back to the top of a Major leaderboard, Phil was fighting against something else.  I am much more impressed by a runner up finish from the world’s 882nd ranked player than from the world’s number 2.

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