It’s not a major, not a tournament win, not anything more than a few lines of code in a computer, really. But an era quietly came to an end Sunday. When rankings come out Monday, Phil Mickelson is projected to drop out of the top 50 in the Official World Golf Rankings for the first time in 26 years.
At the Mynavi ABC Championship on the Japan Golf Tour, Mickelson rode a final-round 68 to a five-under, T-28 finish, which was 14 strokes behind winner Rory McIlroy. Shugi Imahira finished in solo second place ... and, mathematically, that was enough to claim the 50th spot from Mickelson.
Granted, this isn’t anything more than a careful parsing of statistics, so don’t go crying on Mickelson’s behalf. Even so, it’s a testament to how good Mickelson has been for a quarter-century. He cracked the top 50 in November 1993 following a runner-up finish at the Casio World Open.
As we always do when we hit one of these milestones, let’s consider where the golf world was at this point:
Tiger Woods’ major count at that point: 0.
Brooks Koepka was three years old.
Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus were still playing majors, and Nicklaus even had a T6 at Augusta a few years afterward.
Mickelson remains a force in golf. Maybe not a tournament-dominating one, but a force nonetheless. He’s accepted his role of sneaky elder statesman — he’ll teach you the ways of the PGA Tour, but it’ll cost you — even if he’s accepting that his major-winning days are largely behind him.
Love him or loathe him, you can’t deny that the PGA Tour is a more interesting world with Mickelson in the mix. This is a sad little reminder that it won’t be forever, though.
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