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updated: 7/17/2011 7:36 PM

One more wasted opportunity for Mickelson

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Considering all the money, popularity and tournaments Phil Mickelson has won, referring to his golf career as a waste would be outrageous.

Or would it be?

It all depends on whether Mickelson is measured against the likes of Darren Clarke or the likes of Jack Nicklaus.

More is expected of the blessed, like, say, Marilyn Monroe. If she settled for marrying a couple of mopey sports writers instead of Joe DiMaggio and Arthur Miller what a waste of her feminine attributes.

If Ronald Reagan would have stopped at the California governor's mansion instead of the White House what a waste of his charismatic statesmanship.

If Phil Mickelson winds up with fewer major golf championships than anybody but perhaps Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods what a waste of his shot-making ability.

The point is that Mickelson didn't lose to Clarke in the British Open on Sunday.

He lost to Tom Watson and Arnold Palmer and Walter Hagen and Gene Sarazen

Mickelson lost to the greats because he should be in their historic class by now, and his resume in majors leaves him short. He's tied for 19th all-time in major victories.

One of Mickelson's built-in excuses has been that his prime was in Woods' era. Yet he also lost out during that time to so many nameless and faceless and kids and most recently to an older player who won his first major.

Mickelson failed in customary Mickelson fashion Sunday. He came from 5 shots behind, teased by tying Clarke for the lead and then played poorly on the final nine.

Second place might sound successful but in reality was just another Mickelson disappointment.

Mickelson has been one of the game's most gifted players for a couple of decades. During much of his career he has been one of the world's top-ranked players.

That's what makes him one of the most fascinating yet frustrating athletes on the planet.

Being one of the best of his time inserts Mickelson into the conversation among the greatest golfers ever. But the conversation stops at only 4 major victories.

When his coach at the time, Rick Smith, was asked five years ago at the Western Open about Mickelson's talent level he said, "It's always been up there."

Yet as good as Mickelson's swing and ball-striking ability have been, that's how suspect his head and heart have been.

"It was a matter of consistency," Smith said back then.

Mickelson rates among the best at not winning as much as he could have and probably should have, sort of an American Greg Norman. Each blew opportunities to rate among the greatest of greats.

Phil Mickelson is so talented that he should have won more than the four major titles that look good on his scorecard but in reality represent underachievement.

The latest major is just another that Mickelson never can get back, from not only Clarke but from Sam Snead, Nick Faldo and Gary Player.

Smith said in 2006 when asked whether Mickelson ever thinks in those terms, "No, never. You can't. You can't think back at what happened. You have to look forward and focus on the positive."

At 41, Mickelson still has time to win more major titles. Or does he? Maybe not. Who knows?

Regardless, Phil Mickelson never will win as many as he should have because the ones he squandered are gone forever.