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Mickelson Watch

November, 2002: The story up to now. (to be continued at least until Phil wins
a Major.)

Fact: Phil Mickelson has never won a Major.

Opinion: Phil Mickelson may never win a Major unless….

Would you like to know what follows the “unless”? Well of course
you do. After all the devil is in the details.

Would you like to know how knowing what follows the “unless” can
help you enjoy every round of golf you play for the rest of your life and take
5-20 strokes off your current average score?

The Mickelson Watch is going to follow Phil’s progress as he tries to
achieve the elusive Major victory and in doing so illustrate through Phil’s
good or bad example the Colonel Bogey Way to play golf.

Phil Mickelson will probably never win a Major golf tournament unless he truly
develops and understands patience.

Colonel Bogey would like to see Phil win a Major. The young man certainly loves
the game of golf and he is without a doubt a phenomenal talent. But the reason
it is easy to feel bad for Phil is that he does not seem to understand that
when it comes to winning a Major he is his own most fierce opponent.

There may be some hope for Mickelson fans. While Phil came in third, four shots
back in the 2002 Masters, and while he played typical Mickelson golf (in last
round he birdied his first two holes and bogeyed the next two) his post-round
interview showed that he may actually be starting to change his thinking on
the course. In the interview he actually used the word “patience.”
At least this is a start.

For a short time it appeared that Mickelson fans could once again take some
hope from Phil’s play in the 2002 U.S. Open. It appeared that just possibly
Phil was starting to learn what it takes to win a major championship. But, based
on interviews given soon after the Open, it appears that Phil may have learned
just the opposite of what he must learn before he will win a Major. When interviewed
at the Greater Hartford Open, Phil said in response to a question on what it
would take to beat Tiger, “I’ve got to play a more attacking style
in Thursday’s and Friday’s rounds. I’m not in a position and
neither is anyone else, to spot him a big lead.” Taking a “more attacking
style” is exactly the wrong way for Phil to win a major. It is his attacking
style that has kept him from winning a major to this date. In winning 8 Majors
to date, only once before the 2002 U.S. Open, did Tiger lead after the first
or second round.

The week that Tiger played like Phil: The Tour Championship-2002.

In the 2002 Tour Championship Tiger Woods did some very stupid things (after
the tournament we found out that Tiger was having trouble with a knee and we
still do not know whether that affected his play). Tiger came in first in driving
distance (which may be why he hit less than 50% of the fairways), and tied for
first in number of birdies and number of double bogeys. Tiger finished tied
for 7th, 8 strokes behind the winner Vijay Singh. Notwithstanding his lack of
driving accuracy, Tiger’s 18 birdies placed him first in gross negative
score (GNS). Singh’s GNS was -17, while second place finisher Howell’s
was -15 and third place finisher Tom’s was -16. How did Tiger finish 8
strokes behind Singh. Well, in addition to his two double bogeys, Tiger had
10 (count them, 10) bogeys in 72 holes.

And guess what? Phil may actually be learning something about playing smart,
about the value of a par (as I think Johnny Miller put it). Phil actually tied
for first for the most pars, 53 in 72 holes and he actually got through 72 holes
without a double bogey and only 7 bogeys. Maybe 2003 will be the year Phil wins
a Major. It also could be the year you shed the Duffer label (5-20 strokes less
will do it) and learn to enjoy every round you play for the rest of your golfing

The SONY Open in Hawaii

If you have not yet started following the PGA Tour by watching the Gross Positive
Score (GPS) it is time you do. Of course you will either have to let Colonel
Bogey calculate it for you or do it yourself. You won’t find it in your local
newspaper or even in the numerous statistics kept by the PGA Tour. Remember
the GPS is the total number of strokes over par that a player has in a tournament.
Put together with the Gross Negative Score (GNS) gives you the number you see
in your newspaper, namely how the player finished against par for the tournament.

Every week produces many dramatic examples and the Sony Open in Hawaii was
no exception.

Ernie Els had a GNS of -23 and a GPS of +7 and Aaron Baddeley had a GNS of
-21 and a GPS of +5. As you know, they tied for 1st at the end of 72 holes at
-16 and Els won the playoff. What you probably didn’t notice was that seven
other players had GNS’s of -20 or better and they finished from tied for fourth
place (Jerrry Kelly) to tied for 50th place (Brian Gay). Believe it or not,
on their under par holes Els was 23 under and took home $810,000, while Gay
was 20 under and took home only $10,770. Clearly, what Brian Gay needs is fewer
bogeys, or worse, (his GPS was +17) not more birdies or eagles. For example,
Robert Allenby had 17 birdies and no eagles (GNS -17) but he also had only 5
bogeys (GPS +5) and took home $198,000.

Here are a few more examples listed in order of GPS. We have included driving
distance (DD) which also gets a lot more attention than it deserves:

$ Winnings

Study the above list for a few minutes and you will quickly see that the most
important column in determining finish and thus dollars is the GPS score, not
driving distance or birdies/eagles. Steve Lowery tied Ernie Els for the most
number of birdies in the tournament, namely 21. Ernie also had one eagle. But
clearly that one eagle does not explain the almost $800,000 difference in their

You are not playing on the PGA Tour but chances are you will find that it is
your scores over bogey that are keeping you from scoring in the range you would
like to be. If you watched the Sony tournament you could easily get the impression
that Ernie won because of his prodigious drives. But from the above statistics
you can see that Ernie won because he played smart and avoided bogeys and worse.
Young Aaron Baddley did the same so do not be surprised if you see him competeting
for wins in a lot of tournaments in 2003.