Phil Mickelson: Career retrospective
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Phil Mickelson: Career retrospective

Phil Mickelson is 50. And, that's worth celebrating, considering he's one of the most recognizable and popular figures in all of sports. His list of accomplishments are long and certainly distinguished, and he's managed to keep humble and focused for the most part. Here's a look at how "Lefty" has built himself into a true golf legend:

 
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Looking up to Dad

Looking up to Dad
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Mickelson's pilot father, Philip, taught his son the game of golf at a relatively young age. Before even starting school, according to the lore of Mickelson. Young Phil took to the sport quickly as the two spent plenty of hours together bonding over this special game. Depending on who is doing the talking, Mickelson would go on to become one of the great amateur golfers of all time. Here's why ...

 
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Quite the amateur resume

Quite the amateur resume
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... In 1990, Mickelson won the U.S. Amateurr at Cherry Hills Golf Club in Denver - defeating high school buddy Manny Zerman. A year prior, Lefty won his first of three NCAA individual national championships at Arizona State. He repeated as champ in 1990 and won a third in 1992. Mickelson, arguably the most popular and prominent golfer to come out of the storied Sun Devils program, won the Haskins Award (as the nation's top golfer) three times and was the second collegian to earn All-American honors in each of his four years.

 
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Hanging with the big boys

Hanging with the big boys
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While still an amateur, Mickelson turned even more heads when he won the 1991 Northern Telecom Open. It marked the first - and most recent - time an amateur won a PGA Tour event since Scott Verplank at the 1985 Western Open. Phil rallied to top Tom Purtzer and Bob Tway en route to a victory that still ranks near the top of his long-listed golf accomplishments. 

 
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Time to get serious

Time to get serious
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In June 1992, Mickelson had turned pro and was officially ready to make his mark on the PGA Tour. And, by February 1993, Mickelson won his first Tour event as a pro. That coming at the Buick Invitational of California. It was the first of Mickelson's two victories that season. He won again in 1994 and claimed another Northern Telecom Open title in '95. 

 
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The old '96er

The old '96er
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Mickelson has enjoyed many great seasons during his illustrious career. The first of which should be traced back to 1996. That year, Phil won four times, perhaps highlighted by a 3-stroke triumph at the NEC World Series of Golf. If there was any doubt Lefty was blossoming into one of the PGA Tour's best, it was squashed after '96. Going forward, Mickelson also posted four PGA Tour victories in 2000 and '05.

 
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Eye still on the prize

Eye still on the prize
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During the late 1990s and into the 2000s, Mickelson continued to play at an elite level while one of the true superstars of the PGA Tour, However, it was also when Mickelson earned a new moniker - "The Best Golfer Never to Win a Major." To some, that might be a dubious distinction, and it reportedly weighed on Lefty for some time. In April 2004, he no longer had to worry about any of that.

 
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Monkey off his back

Monkey off his back
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On April 11, 2004, Mickelson was no longer without a major victory. At Augusta National, one of the true gems of professional golf, Lefty sank an 18-foot, birdie putt on the 18th hole. Mickelson then leapt off the ground, and when he landed was the Masters champion. That scene, and Mickelson's display of emotion, is an image golf fans who remember watching live should not forget. 

 
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A major mission

A major mission
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Two years after finally winning a major, Mickelson had three such championship victories under his belt. In 2005, he won his first PGA Championship, then earned his second Masters triumph in 2006. Mickelson, along with Tiger Woods, was on top of the golf world and there seemed to be no signs of slowing down. That was until the 2006 U.S. Open rolled around.

 
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Wounded at Winged Foot

Wounded at Winged Foot
Rich Kane/ICON SMI

Entering the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot (also the site of the 2020 event), Mickelson either tied for or outright finished second at America's national championship on three occasions (1999, 2002 and 2004). It looked like in 2006, he would finally get over the U.S. Open hump, and win a third consecutive major overall. In position to win on Sunday, Lefty bogeyed the 16th hole. After making par the 17th hole, Mickelson's overaggressive nature on the final hole got the best of him, and he ended up with a double-bogey to blew a 1-shot lead and hand the title to Geoff Ogilvy. 

 
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Golf is just a game

Golf is just a game
Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY Sports

In 2009, Mickelson won three times, including the Tour Championship. However, he also dealt with two of the most personal challenges of his life. In May 2009, Mickelson's wife, Amy, was diagnosed with breast cancer. After halting his play for a bit to be with his wife, Phil returned, only to take more time off after his mother, Mary, disclosed in July of the same year she was also battling cancer. Through it all, Mickelson persevered and eventually made his way back to the links.

 
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Make it three

Make it three
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Six years to the day of his first major victory - at Augusta National, Mickelson won his third green jacket in 2010. Beating Lee Westwood by 3 strokes for yet another major accomplishment. It was an emotional moment for Mickelson, considering all he had been through as his wife and mother both battled cancer. When Phil clinched that 2010 Masters win, CBS broadcaster Jim Nantz remarked, "That's a win for the family." 

 
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Keeping at the grind

Keeping at the grind
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Despite dealing with psoriatic arthritis, Mickelson trudged on. He won the Houston Open in 2012, and the Pebble Beach Pro-Am for a fourth time in 2012. In 2013, Mickelson won multiple tournaments in one season for the first time since 2009. One of those included another major title for the resume. And, one he had never won before.  

 
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That makes five

That makes five
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With Scotland's famed Muirfield Golf Links as host, Mickelson won his first Open Championship. Lefty shot a final-round 66 to finish 5-under par and take the Claret Jug by 3 strokes in 2013. It was the fifth major title for Mickelson, who was only chasing a U.S. Open crown to complete a career grand slam that many figured was only a matter of time before being achieved.

 
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Showing his mettle

Showing his mettle
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Whether on or off the golf course, Mickelson has shown his resiliency. The middle of the last decade, Mickelson underwent hernia surgeries, swing issues, coaching changes. Following his Open Championship victory, Mickelson struggled to regain his consistent run of success and found himself in the worst drought of his career.

 
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The drought ends

The drought ends
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Not to be held down completely, Mickelson was able to end his long slide without a victory when he won the WGC-Mexico Championship in March 2018. It was Phil's first PGA Tour win in nearly five years, and almost felt as relieving as winning that first major way back when. Perhaps most impressive about this victory, Mickelson was able to top fellow PGA Tour star Justin Thomas in a playoff. Proving that the old guy can still come through in the clutch.

 
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Finding that winning form

Finding that winning form
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The 2018 Ryder Cup was one to forget for Mickelson and the United States team. However, when it was time to get back at it in 2019, Phil came through with his most recent PGA Tour victory. For the fifth time during his career, Mickelson claimed victory at the famed Pebble Beach Pro-Am in February of last year. The question now begs, when will he win another tournament?

 
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He's back

He's back
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The PGA Tour is back in business. And so is Lefty. Mickelson posted a somewhat serviceable opening round at the Charles Schwab Challenge on Thursday, carding a 1-under-par 69. While we don't know what the rest of the weekend will look like for Mickelson, it was a decent personal start to the PGA Tour's reboot. When Mickelson does well, the Tour usually does - in terms of popularity.

 
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Quite the resume

Quite the resume
Raymond Carlin III/USA TODAY Sports

There should not be any pushback placing Mickelson's name in with the likes Palmer, Nicklaus, Player, Woods. He's won more than 60 professional tournaments, 44 of which have come on the PGA Tour (ranked ninth all time). He's won five majors, including the Masters three times, been part of 12 Ryder Cup squads (with three titles) and is already a member of the World Golf Hall or Fame.

 
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Lefty's white whale

Lefty's white whale
Reinhold Matay/USA TODAY Sports

The one thing missing from Mickelson's resume is a U.S. Open victory. He's finished second - outright or in a tie - six times. That "close-but-no-cigar" sentiment does not always play when you're one win from the Grand Slam. Of course, with all Mickelson has accomplished during his golf career, it's far from the end of the world. Still, it's likely to be of the more prominent side notes within his legacy. 

 
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Time to celebrate

Time to celebrate
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At 50, Mickelson is still going. Though, it remains to be seen if he can seriously contend in the bigger events. And this year, will he play some kind of role on the U.S. Ryder Cup team in September? For the moment, there's plenty to celebrate when talking the stellar golf career of one of the most successful and popular athletes on the planet. 

Jeff Mezydlo has written about sports and entertainment online and for print for more than 25 years. He grew up in the far south suburbs of Chicago, 20 minutes from the Mascot Hall of Fame in Whiting, Ind. He’s also the proud father of 11-year-old Matthew, aka “Bobby Bruin,” mascot of St. Robert Bellarmine School in Chicago. You can follow Jeff at @jeffm401.

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