by Jeff Skinner
I don’t know who is more thrilled right now: Phil Mickelson, his fans or the executives at CBS Sports. Having Phil tied for the lead and headlining the last group off the tee is the just what CBS wanted. The only thing missing from a TV exec’s wish list is Tiger Woods. Woods failed to live up to his end of the bargain with an inconsistent round of 74 on Saturday and is tied for 24th.
With Phil in the lead the fans and CBS are sure to be pressed up against those HD TV’s as Phil makes a run at his first PGA Tour win of 2011 and his 39th overall. Phil is in the middle of one of his patented magic acts: he is tied for 72nd in Driving Accuracy (of 79 players) but amazingly he is tied for second in Greens in Regulation. It does not matter that he can’t hit a fairway because no matter where his tee ball lands he the finds the green.
With the exception of Woods, we can’t ask for a more exciting group of players that will threaten Phil today. In the final group along with Phil are Bill Haas and Hunter Mahan. Haas is one of the hottest PGA Tour golfers of late with an eighth place finish and a second after losing in a playoff last week. He won twice last season and has quietly become one of the best “twentysomethings” on tour. Hunter Mahan has the game to win anywhere and is also coming off a year with two victories. He is another of the younger players that is expected to take over the reins from Phil and Tiger.
In the penultimate grouping is a trio of exciting and interesting young studs that easily could keep the “twitter generation” texting and twittering about golf for years to come. “King of Twitter” himself, Bubba Watson sits one stroke off the lead and he hopes to put a Twitpic on Twitter of himself holding the trophy sometime this evening. Watson has a strong following among younger fans but plays an old school game as he has become a premier shaper of the golf ball. If he hits it straight, it’s a mistake. Anthony Kim is the second member of this group and according to Kim he has rededicated himself to golf. Kim was one of the new generation that was supposed to take over the tour from Tiger but until Kim won again last season the thought was that he liked the nightlife too much to contend. Kim says he is more focused and here is a perfect opportunity to prove it. The third member of the next to last group may be the most interesting of them all. Rookie Jhonattan Vegas is still basking in the glow of his win at The Bob Hope Classic last week. Vegas burst onto The PGA Tour with a game that belies his years and a name that transcends golf, Johnny Vegas. Like it or not, he’ll be called Johnny Vegas forever and he has created so much excitement on tour he’s the latest and greatest story out there. His ability to focus this week and still be in contention shows that Vegas, at least for the moment, has what it takes to mix it up with the big boys.
Today has the potential to be a wonder day for the PGA Tour and its latest champion. Any of the aforementioned players would be a great champion but no doubt the heart of America is pulling for Phil Mickelson. The Arnold Palmer of this generation of golfers, Phil is the most beloved player on the course. He’ll be the favorite today by both his golf ranking and emotionally. Many fans and CBS for that matter are hoping for another Philly Mick win and another emotional moment for Phil and his family behind the eighteenth green.