Let's call off the search for the Next Tiger Woods, just in time for the first Masters without him since 1994.

Nobody will replace Woods, not in these next four days at Augusta National and not after he ends his reign as the world's all-time most relevant golfer.

Whenever that is, though the end is coming relatively soon.

Not even Woods, now 38 and surgery-sidelined, can replicate Woods' prime performances anymore, and epochal players like him only come around every 30 years or so.

That's the point. Once he goes -- and Woods is kind of moving away now -- there will never be anybody like him again in this sport.

How about a more realistic goal: Let's try to find the Next Phil Mickelson.

Now I realize that Mickelson, 43, is still in the mix for everything, especially at the Masters, where he has won three times.

He's one of the favorites at this tournament, which starts Thursday, and Mickelson still remains one of the favorites at every tournament he enters.

Yes, Mickelson absolutely would still be one of the most likely to win a green jacket even if Woods were healthy.

After all, since Woods' last Masters victory in 2005, Mickelson has won the tournament twice -- in 2006 and 2010.

But this also makes Mickelson the likelier candidate to be replicated by some of the young, charismatic and talented players.

Mickelson isn't a once-in-a-lifetime player, but he's still a giant, and he's actually someone the younger tyros should try to emulate.

Because you can't quite copy Woods, who couldn't quite copy Jack Nicklaus, who couldn't quite copy Ben Hogan, and so on.

Mickelson is more approachable, and his greatness is more applicable, I think, to the very best players of the next generation.

More to the point, he has demonstrated something -- and continues to demonstrate it -- that should be celebrated and hopefully replicated: Mickelson has given the golf world longevity and consistency, and who would've predicted that latter description back when he was a massive boom/bust talent in his 20s?

Mickelson won his first PGA event when he 20 as an amateur, won 15 times in his 20s (with no majors), won 24 times in his 30s (with four majors) and has won three times in his 40s (with one major, his fifth overall, putting him in a tie for 14th on the all-time list).

In comparison, Woods won 10 majors in his 20s and currently has four majors in his 30s, with seven left to play before he turns 40 in December 2015.

That is, if he's healthy enough to play them.

Meanwhile, Mickelson motors along into his middle 40s with relative good health; despite a pulled muscle recently, he seems fine this week.

Given all that, Mickelson could very well win tournaments -- maybe even majors -- close to or past his 50th birthday, which would put him into the 2020s as a relevant figure.

I'm not sure Woods is going to make it that far at a high level, not after all the surgeries he has already been through, and we know that the best predictor for future bad health is past bad health.

Woods has hit the incredible highs and remained up there for more than a decade, winning 11 of 33 majors at one point from 2000 to mid-2008.

Since Woods' final major victory at the 2008 U.S. Open, only three players have won multiple times in a span of 22 major events:

Mickelson with two (last year's British and the 2010 Masters), Rory McIlroy with two (the 2011 U.S. Open and the 2012 PGA Championship) and Padraig Harrington (the 2008 British and PGA).

Again: What Woods did in that period is not ever going to happen again. Just like Nicklaus' record of 18 career majors is not going to be matched.

Now his body is breaking down, and Woods has not won a major since the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, which was his 14th career major.

So I'm saying that Mickelson already has won more majors in his 40s than Woods probably will in his 40s.

Mickelson could have a 30-year window, open for maybe another decade or, while Woods' window is closing before our eyes.

And Mickelson's career is the one that Rory McIlroy, Adam Scott, Jason Day, Matt Kuchar and Dustin Johnson should measure and contemplate.

Mickelson's run will end up as one of the great careers in golf history, but it will still be within the reach of mere mortals, and that should be celebrated, too.

Read Tim Kawakami's Talking Points blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/kawakami. Contact him at tkawakami@mercurynews.com.

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INSIDE
  • Craig and Kevin Stadler
    are gearing up for historic
    Masters. PAGE 6
  • Tee times. PAGE 8