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Phil Mickelson holds a nearly 26-year-old streak that could end this week at the CJ Cup

October 14, 2019
BMW Championship - Preview Day 2

Andrew Redington

Nov. 27, 1993—“Mrs. Doubtfire” was the top draw at movie box office, Meatloaf’s “I Would Do Anything for Love (But I Won't Do That)” was No. 1 on the music charts and Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake and Christina Aguilera had just joined “The New Mickey Mouse Club.” It was also the last time Phil Mickelson was NOT in the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking.

Think about that for a moment.

Current World No. 1 Brooks Koepka was 3 years old. Tiger Woods was a senior … in high school. Nick Faldo was atop the World Rankings.

Mickelson’s run in the top 50 in the OWGR began with a runner-up at the Casio World Open, which boosted him to 47th in the ranking, and has lasted 1,351 straight weeks—or, more than a quarter of a century. The next best top-50 streak all time is Ernie Els at 965 weeks (Rory McIlroy has the second longest active streak at 596 weeks).

But Mickelson’s mark could end this week.

Mickelson, who enters the PGA Tour’s CJ Cup in South Korea ranked 47th, could drop outside the top 50 depending where he and others finish in the no-cut event and how myriad scenarios play out. Here's one, according to OWGR guru @Nosferatu, should Mickelson finish outside the top 52 in the tournament to not earn any points: If Byeong Hun An (currently 48th in the OWGR) finishes in the top 52, Tyrrell Hatton (49th) finishes inside the top 25 and Cam Smith (51st) inside the top 18 in Korea, and if Shugo Imahira (52nd) finishes inside the top five at the Japan Open, Mickelson would drop outside the top 50. A number of players—Alex Noren, Erik van Rooyen, Joaquin Niemann, C.T. Pan, Jazz Janewattananond, Charles Howell III, Jason Kokrak, Corey Conners and Collin Morikawa, among others—could also leapfrog Mickelson in the ranking. Four of them would have to do so to knock Mickelson out.

Though the odds are slim for that to happen—a less than 10-percent chance—the 49-year-old has endured his share of struggles this year.

Since his victory at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in early February, Mickelson has missed the cut eight times and finished inside the top 40 just three times in 18 starts. That futility, naturally, has led to a steady decline in the OWGR for the five-time major champ. Mickelson, who jumped from 29th to 17th following his Pebble victory, dipped to 44th after a missed cut in his first start of the 2019-’20 season, the Safeway Open. With a 61st-place finish at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open two weeks ago, he fell to 46th. He then dropped another spot during an off week when the rankings were released on Monday.

The good news? Mickelson will at least have a chance to keep the streak going by playing (and playing well). In addition to this week’s CJ Cup, he said it’s likely that he also will tee it up in the WGC-HSBC Champions in two weeks. That event also has no cut, allowing for him to more easily earn World Ranking points and hold his top-50 spot.

Two other interesting facts about Mickelson’s streak. There was one other time when Lefty nearly fell out of the top 50. He dropped to 49th in after the Farmers Insurance Open in January 2018. A T-5 finish the next week at the Waste Management Phoenix Open moved him up to 41st.

Additionally, somehow in the amazing run Mickelson has never been ranked No. 1.