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Time may run out on Lefty

February 20, 2003|by DAN KAUFFMAN

kauffman@herald-mail.com

It happened again Sunday, just like many, many previous Sundays over the past several years. One by one, golf aficionados - players, reporters and fans (or patrons, as known in Augusta) - rose in chorus to say:

"Phil's time will come."

Usually, this chorus is reserved for major disappointments, as in, those sufferend at major tournaments - the kind Phil Mickelson has never won.

This particular Sunday, the chorus resonated after the Buick Invitational, a well-known and well-respected PGA event for sure, but hardly a major. Were it not for the return of Tiger Woods from knee surgery, or for Tiger and Phil being in the final group, or for Phil's misguided belief Woods plays "inferior equipment" (read, lousy clubs) and is the only player capable of overcoming it, nobody would have made a big deal about Sunday.

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But there it was. Tiger won in his return to the Tour, making for a fantastic story. As for Phil? Well, he didn't quite have it Sunday, but - as we've said before - his time will come.

Right?

I want to keep believing it. Phil is the kind of guy you'd like in your own foursome, a charming, likable, friendly bloke. He's the kind of guy who'd take your money with a 90-foot pitch straight into the hole for eagle, and you'd gladly hand over your hard-earned dollars.

I sincerely hope one day Lefty wins that elusive major title. After all, it can happen when no one expects it. Look at Mark O'Meara.

But we've been saying Phil's time will come for close to a decade now. As much as we hope we're right, nothing is guaranteed or promised - even to as talented a player as Lefty.

Some major Sunday, Phil is gonna have to rip that monkey off his back and rip it 300 yards down a fairway, or rather, several of them.

He's gonna have to hit solid approach shots to difficult hole locations on the back nine under extreme pressure, with every golfing fan in the world watching either live or on TV.

He's gonna have to make 6-foot par putt after mind-numbing 6-foot par putt.

He's gonna have to charge through the front door, beat dozens of world-class golfers and earn his spot among the pantheon of major winners.

It won't get any easier, not with Tiger in his prime for the next 15 or so years, not with the Tour itself becoming more and more difficult with the increased exposure of (and interest in) the game. More kids are picking up clubs and playing in youth tournaments than ever before, and a generation from now, those kids will make up the next wave of incredibly talented pros.

So cheer for Lefty, a good guy who deserves his day in the sun. But the next time you hear the chorus, understand that, in sports, sometimes those who are most deserving are also those who are least rewarded.

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