The streak is over. Long live the streak.
For the first time since Nov. 27, 1993, Phil Mickelson is no longer ranked in the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking.
We knew this day would eventually come, but it doesn’t make the streak any less astounding. Shugo Imahira finished runner-up in the Japan Golf Tour’s Mynavi ABC Championship to vault past Mickelson and end his 1,353 weeks inside the top 50.
That sounds like a long time and it is – a Joe DiMaggio 56-game hit streak of sorts that may never be broken – but to give it greater context there is this: the No. 1 song on the Billboard Top 100 at the time was Meatloaf’s “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)” and the top-three grossing films in America were Jurassic Park, Mrs. Doubtfire and The Fugitive.
As 15th Club’s Justin Ray pointed out, 348 different players won on the PGA Tour during Mickelson’s top-50 streak, and Rory McIlroy, the new active leader at 572 consecutive weeks inside the top 50, is more than 15 years behind Mickelson.
That’s some serious longevity. Mickelson’s streak was in danger of ending back in February 2018 when he dropped to No. 49, but he strung together four top-6 finishes in a row including a victory at the WGC Mexico Championship in March to surge back inside the top 20. But since Mickelson’s most recent victory at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in February, he hasn’t recorded a top-10 finish, stunk in the majors, including a missed cut at The Open, failed to qualify for the Tour Championship and has been mired in one of the worst slumps of his career.
Just how poorly has he played? Mickelson ranks No. 192 in the Golfweek Sagarin Rankings, which is more reflective of current performance.
“I just haven’t played well,” Mickelson said before finishing T-28 at the WGC HSBC Champions. “Just had a lot of stuff going on, and I just haven’t been really focused and into the mental side. I haven’t seen good clear pictures. I haven’t been as committed and as connected to the target. I just haven’t been mentally as sharp the last six, eight months.”
The Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee chalked it up to Father Time finally catching up to Mickelson.
“That’s what happens to 48-year-old golfers,” he said. “You know, your eyes aren’t as good, your feel is not as good. The players you’re competing against are in the prime of their lives, their nerves are perfect, their eyesight is perfect, their bodies are perfect.”
Coincidentally, another equally remarkable Mickelson streak is likely to come to an end this week when Tiger Woods makes his captain’s picks for the Presidents Cup. Mickelson has played on 24 consecutive Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup teams, qualifying for 20 of them. As the Associated Press’s Doug Ferguson noted, the last time he wasn’t on a team was 1993, the year Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth were born.
But Mickelson is resigned to the fact that this is another case of all good things must come to an end.
“I’ve played terribly this year,” Mickelson said in China, “and even if I were to win this week, I do not deserve or warrant a pick for the Presidents Cup. There’s much better players who have played better throughout the year, and so I won’t be on the team this year.
“But I intend to come back strong, play well and get back on the Ryder Cup team next year.”
Can Mickelson start a new streak? It wouldn’t hurt if, like Woods, his longtime rival, he can return to the winner’s circle again and hoist his 45th PGA Tour title.
“I predict Phil will win a tournament in his 50s,” NBC’s Paul Azinger said in a recent interview. “Because he’s so flexible and limber. But the woods are full of long hitters, and Mickelson, I think to his, I guess, detriment, he somehow figured as he got older he needed to hit it farther. He finishes last in fairways hit every year anyway (No. 185 of 188 in 2018-19), now he’s 10 yards farther in the bushes. It’s just – he was wrong about this one as a player. He got it wrong.”