If it has been a no-brainer to say Tiger Woods was the best American player, neither has it been difficult in recent years to say who the next best three were.
Phil Mickelson, Steve Stricker and Jim Furyk.
The trio combined for a dozen victories in 2009-10 and against the backdrop of Woods’ personal-life crisis, this trio remained anchors, contenders virtually every time they teed it up.
But there were stumbles in 2012, be it owed to advancing years, decreasing power, fatigue or complacency. Maybe it’s a little of everything, because each is in a different place in their lives, but they combined for two wins in 2012, and Furyk is on a 50-tournament skid, winless since the 2010 Tour Championship.
Worse were the other indicators: Mickelson missed the cut at the Open Championship and didn’t factor at the U.S. Open or PGA; Furyk badly coughed up the U.S. Open and WGC-Bridgestone Invitational; Stricker didn’t even win the John Deere.
Capping it all off, each got beat in the Sunday singles debacle at the Ryder Cup, where Furyk and Stricker were a combined 1-6.
They have combined to play in 40 Ryder/Presidents Cups, yet it wouldn’t be a shock to see Team USA without one of them come October at Muirfield Village. Still, though they will be 46 in February (Stricker), 43 in May (Furyk) and 43 in June (Mickelson), the guess is there’s enough left in the tank – and twice that in pride – to show plenty of life in 2013.