Don’t just shrug off Phil’s top-100 streak

THOUSAND OAKS, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 23: Phil Mickelson of the United States plays his shot from the first tee during the second round of the Zozo Championship @ Sherwood on October 23, 2020 in Thousand Oaks, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
THOUSAND OAKS, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 23: Phil Mickelson of the United States plays his shot from the first tee during the second round of the Zozo Championship @ Sherwood on October 23, 2020 in Thousand Oaks, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /

In his record 1,425 consecutive weeks inside the top 100 of the Official World Golf Ranking, Phil Mickelson famously never reached No. 1.

But then, neither did he rank No. 42 … or No. 45 … or No. 48 … or No. 57. In fact, from 1 through 100, there were 26 different numerals that he never landed on. The list also includes No. 100, the number he slipped under when the latest rankings were released earlier this week.

It’s the first time the 50-year-old World Golf Hall of Famer has been outside the top 100 since Aug. 15, 1993, which was the Sunday of the PGA Championship that year at Inverness. Mickelson tied for sixth in his first start in that major, thus moving from 117th to 101st in the rankings. A week later, he won The International – played under the Modified Stableford system at 7,559-yard Castle Pines – and rose to 65th.

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Tiger Woods, who would eventually become the reason why Mickelson never reached No. 1, was 17 years old at the time. Nick Faldo, meanwhile, was No. 1. He wasn’t the only future golf broadcaster in the top 100 that week – Paul Azinger was 4th, Ian Baker-Finch was 53rd and David Feherty was 67th.

Those guys fell off. In fact, everybody on that top 100 list would fall off, except for Mickelson. For the next 28 years, he was a fixture inside the top 100. Actually, he was pretty much a fixture inside the top 50 – of those 1,425 weeks, just 67 were spent outside the top 50. He spent more than 25 consecutive years inside the top 50.

As for Tiger? While he spent 683 weeks at No. 1 (with Mickelson at No. 2 for 270 of those weeks), he could not keep up with Mickelson’s top-100 streak. After his first Tour win in 1996, Woods spent 963 weeks inside the top 100 until falling out two weeks before the 2015 Masters.

Even though Tiger has been back inside the top 100 for the last 141 weeks (he’s currently 57th), he would need to maintain a spot inside the top 100 for another six years before catching Mickelson’s total. Tiger would be 51 years old at that point.

So … not likely to happen.

You’ll probably argue the point, but at the four-way stop of longevity, consistency, accomplishment and health, there may be no greater feat in golf. Frankly, the golf world should be celebrating the number 1,425 with much more gusto than the “interesting note” and “what else you got?” responses that it seems to be receiving.

Why isn’t Mickelson still in top 100?

We might also want to re-evaluate why a player who has two wins in his last 10 starts since late August does not reside in the top 100.

The Official World Golf Ranking has never recognized results from PGA Tour Champions events, which means that Mickelson’s wins in his first two starts last fall against the 50-and-older crowd did not earn him any ranking points. It’s the same reason why Bernhard Langer has spent the majority of the past 13 years ranked outside the top 500 – and sometimes outside the top 1,000 — despite winning 41 Champions events and dominating that Tour.

There are a handful of reasons for excluding Champions results; most are valid. Figuring out appropriate ranking points for no-cut, three-round Champions events would be difficult, given that the majority of professional touring golfers are not even old enough to even play those tournaments.

Maybe there’s a way to develop an appropriate calculation, especially with more big names looming on the Champions horizon – including European Ryder Cup Captain Padraig Harrington, who turns 50 in August. Lee Westwood, in the hunt at Bay Hill last weekend, is 47. And while Tiger’s future remains unknown after the near-tragic auto accident, maybe he’ll see the Champions Tour as a way to fuel his competitive spirit in a less-demanding environment. (Doubtful to be sure, but a Tiger-Phil duel at a U.S. Senior Open might draw a few eyeballs, don’t you think?)

Putting the top 100 in perspective

Or maybe none of this ranking stuff really matters.

A few years ago, Jack Nicklaus said, “I don’t pay too much attention to it. I there’s too much paid to it. It’s like my majors. I never counted my majors until (golf journalist) Bob Green told me at St. Andrews in the ‘70s. He says, ‘Hey, Jack, that’s 10. Only three more to tie Bobby Jones.’

“I said, ‘Really?’

“Honest, I never counted them. Never really worried about it. All I did was try to play the best I could.”

The OWGR was not a thing during Nicklaus’ heyday, of course, so no surprise that it fails to interest him. Modern-day players have much more at stake, especially since entry into some of the Tour’s biggest events are predicated on world rankings.

Will anybody match Phil’s record?

But even with heightened interest, could somebody ever exceed 1,425 weeks? Justin Thomas was asked this week at The Players Championship who the best candidate would be to chase Mickelson’s record.

“There’s a lot of guys. You look at Rory, myself, Jordan, Rick. DJ — I don’t know how much longer he’s going to play golf, so I’m not sure if he’s going to have however many years left to do that,” Thomas replied.

“I mean, there’s a handful of guys, especially as young as guys like Morikawa, Hovland, Matt Wolff going into the top 100. I could see guys like them doing it. Like we were saying earlier, golf is a funny game, and you never know what’s going to happen.”

For the record, Dustin Johnson has spent 616 weeks inside the top 100 – but not all of them have been consecutive. And he’s not even halfway to Phil.

Golf, to JT’s point, may indeed be funny, but we pretty much know that nobody will catch Mickelson.

For 28 years, we got his best – 42 of his 44 career wins (his first two came when he was still outside the top 100), five majors and countless highlights. So many memorable moments — good ones and bad ones. He wasn’t always in contention, but he was always interesting.

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And who knows – with a good showing this week at TPC Sawgrass, maybe Phil moves up the rankings and starts a new streak. If he makes it another 1,425 weeks, he’d be 78 years old.


The numbers that Mickelson never landed on inside the top 100:

1, 42, 45, 48, 57, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78, 80, 81, 83, 84, 85, 87, 88, 90, 91, 92, 93, 94, 95, 97, 99 and 100.

Weeks Mickelson spent inside the top 10:

No. 1 – 0
No. 2 – 270
No. 3 – 111
No. 4 – 120
No. 5 – 66
No. 6 – 33
No. 7 – 27
No. 8 – 30
No. 9 – 54
No 10 – 75