MILWAUKEE -- Uneasy lies the crown on the noggin of the new sultan of slam, Phil Mickelson.
Only a few moments had passed since Lefty had fired the best score of the final round at the 92nd PGA Championship, which, unbeknownst to him, allowed him to slide past rival Tiger Woods and claim the lowest cumulative score at all four majors in 2010.
|Phil Mickelson doesn't exactly give it a thumbs up, but the 'award' certainly beats the alternative. (Getty Images)|
When the unofficial honor was verbally bestowed upon Mickelson in the Whistling Straits locker room, he rolled his eyes, laughed about three different ways, then continued the task of removing his aromatic leather golf spikes and placing then into a travel bag. He chose stink over distinction.
Clearly, he was still in a state of shock and awe. Pressed for a response, Mickelson playfully parroted a line from an NFL player that roughly translates to, "Oh, please."
Hey, some tour traditionalists are plain leery of what they do not understand -- like Democrats. People laughed at the Edsel at first, too, right? The facts are, he earned it and there is no abdication.
Based on the strength of his win at the Masters and solid performance at the U.S. Open, Mickelson finished a combined 18 under at the majors and claimed the overall title for the third time since we began tracking a cumulative list in 2004. Woods won it twice in that seven-year span and held a one-shot lead over Mickelson after 15 major-championship rounds heading into Sunday, but shot his worst round of the week on Sunday, a 1-over 73.
It was one of the rare times all year the Nos. 1-2 players in the world fought it out on Sunday for anything, so come on, indulge us a little here.
If nothing else, the list is testament to Mickelson's year-long ability to somewhat transcend rain (British Open), burned-out greens (U.S. Open) and one of the craziest designs on American soil (PGA Championship). As usual, he played well at Augusta National, too, finishing 16 under at that track alone. So, if nothing else, the cumulative honor is a decent measure of consistency, stability and versatility.
Although that description doesn't explain how Woods finished second. That's a tribute to sheer tenacity, because he amassed the second-best mark despite not playing anywhere near his competitive ceiling and nearly won the summative title without benefit of an actual Grand Slam title this year.
A total of 11 players made the cut in all four majors in 2010, which is precisely the annual average over the past seven years, but that doesn't begin to tell the story of what went down before and after at Whistling Straits. A slew of guys folded at the slam finish line.
Three players withdrew from the PGA Championship because of injury or illness, including Lee Westwood, who was leading the Summative Slam list after the first three majors at 14-under par. Westwood was fourth on the cumulative list in 2009, which in our view makes him far and away the steadiest player in the world at the majors contested over the past two years, even though he hasn't won a title in that period.
|Surviving the Slam|
|A look at the players who completed all 16 rounds at the 2010 major championships, sorted by their cumulative scores.|
Westwood (calf injury), Robert Allenby (knee) and Ian Poulter (illness) all withdrew before completing the PGA and had made the cut in the first three majors. Seven others who made the cut in the first three majors didn't make the weekend at the PGA, either, including Sean O'Hair, Sergio Garcia and Steve Marino. Same for Lucas Glover, who got knocked out of the U.S. Ryder Cup top eight as a result.
As for the Ryder, maybe the underdog Americans have a chance after all. The 2009 list was loaded with Europeans -- Ross Fisher was first and Euros occupied the first five positions. This year, Americans claimed seven of the 11 spots, including the first five. In fact, the only Euro to complete all 16 rounds this year was Sweden's lanky Robert Karlsson, who finished seventh collectively after missing much of last year with an eye malady. He's a longshot for the Euro Ryder team.
As ever, there were a couple of surprises, especially the continued impressive play of Matt Kuchar, who finished T10 at the PGA to earn an automatic berth on the U.S. Ryder team. Kooch, with one victory since 2002, finished third behind Lefty and Woody, three cumulative strokes ahead of another rookie Ryder member, Dustin Johnson. Nick Watney, the 54-hole leader at the PGA, was fifth overall despite an awful closing round of 81 on Sunday.
The most unheralded player on the list, no question, is Camilo Villegas, who has made the last 11 cuts at majors dating back to the 2008 U.S. Open, the longest run of any player. He ended his Slam season in style with a 68 on Sunday and climbed into a T8 finish at both the PGA and on the cumulative slam list.
At the other end of the extreme were the major meltdowns of Denmark's
Earlier in the week, we spotted Hansen toting his bag to the parking lot, where the only completed slam was the one involving his clubs and the trunk of his car. Needless to say, we did not bestow upon him the dishonor of having had the co-worst performance at the majors this year.
Good thing, too, because Mickelson's animated blow-off was plenty enough. Given the way Phil laughingly sloughed off the Summative Slam honor, I guess it's a good thing I didn't congratulate him on being the lowest left-handed, arthritic vegetarian on the PGA leaderboard, huh?