One of the greatest streaks in professional sport has ended
Phil Mickelson Falls Out Of World’s Top 50 After 26-Year Streak
One of the longest streaks in professional sport has come to an end after Phil Mickelson dropped out of the world’s top 50 for the first time since 1993.
Lefty narrowly remained inside the top 50 at the Zozo Championship but his T28th finish at the WGC-HSBC Champions, combined with Shugo Imahira’s runner-up finish on the Japan Golf Tour, has seen him fall out.
Given all the potential pitfalls associated with top-tier professional sports – including, but not limited to, loss of form, injury, family concerns and issues away from the sport – Mickelson’s achievement is an extraordinary one that may never be matched.
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The last time he was outside the world’s top 50, Bill Clinton was President of the USA, Nick Faldo was World No.1 and Mrs Doubtfire was the biggest draw at the box office.
So will this streak ever be matched or indeed supplanted? At this point, you have to say it’s extremely unlikely.
The exponential increase in the number of quality players means competition in every event is fierce and any downward streak is exacerbated – you have to be on your game every week or you’ll risk missing the cut.
You only have to look at the strength of the worldwide feeder tours in this day and age to see how competitive the professional golfing landscape is.
What’s more, the modern emphasis on strength and condition means injuries are far more likely, while advancements in technology and the nature of professional course layouts mean the gap between top and bottom is narrowing all the time.
Another factor is the vast sums of money available in the professional game, which makes early retirement more appealing.
Three good years on the PGA Tour is enough to set you up for life, especially with that circuit’s generous pension scheme.
For context, the longest active top-50 stretch belongs to Rory McIlroy at 10 years and 11 months – just 15 years shy of Mickelson. Justin Rose’s streak stands at nine years and four months and Rickie Fowler has been inside the top 50 since June 2011.
Add all those up and you get to roughly 28 years – just two more than Mickelson. In terms of other sporting comparisons, Alex Ferguson – perhaps the greatest football manager of all time – was in charge of Manchester United for 26 years.
Of course, speculation and comparison is part and parcel of professional sports, but the reality is no one can see into the future.
What we can do is commend Mickelson for his incredible longevity and celebrate an achievement we may never see again.
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