Title: Phil Mickelson Isn't 'This Generation's Arnold Palmer'—Tiger Woods Is Mickelson certainly plays like Palmer, and comparisons have surfaced in the days since Mickelson's British Open win. But only Tiger has revitalized the sport like Palmer did.
Description: After Phil Mickelson pulled off one the great final-round comebacks in golf history to win the British Open on Sunday, he basked in the adulation of an overjoyed crowd at the Muirfield course in Scotland. Spectators had abandoned their fervent support of a hometown hero, Englishman Lee Westwood, to back Lefty down the stretch. In those moments, Mickelson reminded many fans--and sportswriters--of a similarly winsome "people's champion" who reigned at the British Open more than half a century ago. "Mickelson has been this generation's Arnold Palmer: exciting, daring to the point of self-destruction, charismatic, fan-friendly, and flawed," former Sports Illustrated veteran E.M. Swift wrote in a blog post. A New York Times article on the victory referred to Mickelson and Tiger Woods as "the Arnold Palmer and [Jack] Nicklaus of their day," and even the most casual golf fan knows that "Mickelson = Palmer" in the Times' analogy. Related Story Does the PGA Tour Need to Get More Scandalous? The comparison is easy enough to make. Both men played a high-risk style of golf, taking big gambles on key shots in search of even greater rewards. Both were overshadowed by a less emotionally available but more successful golfer. And both had overwhelming fan support, perhaps because of their image as wholesome, all-American family men. But is Mickelson really the 21st-century Palmer? A closer look at their careers and lives suggests that while their golfing styles were of a piece, Palmer's massive celebrity appeal and effect on the sport make him more like Mickelson's chief rival, Tiger. On the course, Mickelson reminds many golf fans--especially those from the Boomer generation--of Palmer. The King, as Palmer was known, attacked every hole of every round with the same fervor, whether he was five behind, five ahead, or tied. The defining Palmer moment may have been his final round at Colorado's Cherry Hills Country Club in the 1960 U.S. Open: Starting seven shots back of third-round leader Mick Souchak, Palmer drove the green on the par-4 first hole and birdied six of his first seven holes on his way to a final-round 65 and the victory. Palmer's lowest career moment was the flip side of that coin: Up seven strokes with just nine holes left in the 1966 U.S. Open, he refused to play it safe and finished four over par on his final nine, eventually losing a 18-hole playoff to Billy Casper.