Fields: Mickelson Can Join Elite Group

April 12, 2008

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- At five-under 139, tied for third with Ian Poulter and Steve Flesch only three strokes behind 36-hole leader Trevor Immelman, Phil Mickelson starts the weekend not only with an excellent chance to win but also to polish his reputation as a golfer who has made a significant mark despite competing in the Age of Tiger.

A victory would be Mickelson's third at Augusta National, which would tie him with Jimmy Demaret (1940, 1947, 1950), Sam Snead (1949, 1952, 1954), Gary Player (1961, 1974, 1978) and Nick Faldo (1989, 1990, 1996) on the all-time Masters victory list. Moreover, it would give him a distinction that none of Jack Nicklaus' rivals were ever able to achieve when they were going against the best player of his day.

From the time Nicklaus won his first Masters (1963) until his sixth and final triumph (1986), no other player was able to claim more than two green jackets -- not even Tom Watson, who supplanted Nicklaus as golf's No. 1 in the late-1970s. And several golfers -- notably Lee Trevino, Tom Weiskopf and Johnny Miller -- couldn't find the secret to winning a single Masters title during the Golden Bear's reign.

*-- Bill Fields *