I watched most of round three of the Northern Trust Open – formerly the Nissan Open – on television yesterday afternoon.
My first thought was "uh oh, another tournament where Phil is trying to beat journeymen 10 years younger and who have half his experience and he's struggling again".
It was shades of the FBR Open – déjà vu all over again, asmight say.
Then it struck me that this is the face of the PGA Tour this year and probably from now on: weekly tournaments where one or two top ranked players are scattered throughout the field, lost amid the hordes of decent players trying to break from the pack and secure their first win.
Yes, I thought, from here on, golf fans will have to be as selective in the tournaments they watch as the players are in selecting the tournaments they compete in.
I don't mean to take anything away from the majority of players who have fought hard to get their tour cards and are busting their humps to make a living. Not at all.
But gone are the days, heck the seasons, when you could turn on your TV on any Saturday or Sunday and be guaranteed to see the top five or 10 players in the world fighting for the lead.
When I began watching golf on TV back in the late 70s, every week I would see Nicklaus, Crenshaw, Wadkins, Peete, Trevino, Sutton and many others teeing it up.
They never missed a tournament. Of course, the season was much shorter in the 70s and 80s. The season ended in October and didn't resume until mid January. The players could handle the pace.
Now, as we know, there is no end and no real defining start to a season; golf just goes all year round somewhere on the planet.
And many highly ranked world players, only human after all, are pulling back and being selective about where and when they will compete.
But hold on. Let's take another look at the Northern Trust Open leaderboard. Yes, Mickelson was the highest ranked player on page one of the leaderboard. But world number 19, Luke Donald and 9th ranked K.J. Choi were there, too.
A host of other top ranked guys were not doing well: Adam Scott, Steve Stricker, Sergio Garcia, Angel Cabrera, Zach Johnson and Vijay Singh were meandering along at best.
Justin Rose and Jim Furyk missed the cut.
But these are all among the best players in the world. And they entered the Northern Trust Open.
The real story, then, is not so much that top players are cherry picking their tournaments to the detriment of golf fans; they're simply starting slowly and warming up gradually.
They've learned that they need to pace themselves if they want to maintain a mental edge and avoid injury in a season that began January 3rd and ends on December 21st.