Mentioning Lefty in my column last week seems to have a beneficial effect on the golfer’s play. When, last week, I jokingly suggested Mickelson had lost the ability to compete at the highest level, he went out and won the Northern Trust Open, collecting a cool 1.1 million dollars in the process. I only make reference to the preceding as a way of saying “Phil, I hope the following published objection to you makes you richer and more victorious.” Recent history, and the fallacy of false cause, suggest it will.
It isn’t that I dislike Phil personally, it’s just that, representationally or symbolically I find him tough to stomach. It isn’t as though I haven’t tried to like the guy. I have. However, despite my best efforts, I find myself rooting against him, amused by his two way miss off the tee and quite delighted when his umpteenth unnecessary flop shot doesn’t come off as planned.
A few years ago, Rick Reilly wrote an article entitled “You A Tiger Guy Or A Phil Guy?” Reilly’s main contention is one is either a supporter of Mickelson or Woods; advocacy of both parties is an impossibility. To support both, as Reilly states, would be the same as enjoying the political/cultural insights of both Michael Moore and Ann Coulter.
As my large and ravenous fan base knows from past columns, I am a rather shameless Tiger Guy. This element of full disclosure aside, I’ll try to make my major complaints first. I concede that I am more perturbed by relatively minor (and perhaps insignificant) details than the larger elements of the Phil Mickelson persona. For example, the fact that Phil’s website (featuring the Phil Mickelson “silhouette of my 4½ inch vertical jump” logo) is sponsored by Sports Scope… you know, these things.
I absolutely respect Phil Mickelson. I think his short game is incredible (while his mental game and decision making appear quite weak, at times). I think he is a gentleman and an entirely reputable individual. He seems to be an exemplar of family values (all discussions of a swinger lifestyle aside). Additionally, Phil normally appears kind and candid in interviews, with a real love for his fans.
Nevertheless, I have a number of complaints. I am tired of the Mickelson family swarming the green, the visor, the haircut, the style of play, and the unnecessarily small shirt. I don’t respect the way in which he sold out Titleist right before a Ryder Cup or his apparent lack of a killer instinct. Just a few moments ago, I saw Phil’s post-round interview from the opening day of the Accenture Match Play Championship.
Mickelson was four up on Angel Cabrera after thirteen holes. He then proceeded to lose four straight holes. Of course, anything can happen in match play; losing four straight isn’t what bothered me. What irked me, specifically, was Phil’s answer when asked what his thoughts were as Cabrera began making a charge and the Mickelson lead vanished. I don’t remember his specific words, after an initial “you don’t want to know.” The point is, the right answer would have been something like “Well, you never know what will happen in match play, you just have to stay patient, confident and capitalize on opportunities as they present themselves.” Which is a polite way of saying, “I knew I was going to put this guy away.” I heard nothing of the sort from Phil.
Winged Foot is, in some sense, the prime example of what I can’t stand about Mickelson: a gambling go-for-broke style of play which often results in disaster. Of course, the argument can always be made that the golfer wouldn’t have won half of the 35 (or 42) times he has without this uber-aggressive style of play. However, my feeling on the subject is basically as follows. Phil Mickelson has been blessed with incredible natural abilities which, if filtered through a sieve of prudent course management, would not be so routinely wasted. In a real way, I think he has an obligation to do so rather than simply “having fun” on the golf course (or at the casino, another favorite Mickelson institution).
The fan favorite Mickelson, basking in the roars at Bethpage or annually at the FBR Open, bothers me also. Phil seems to not only enjoy, but in some sense need, the adoration of the masses. “He’s just like us,” Phil fans cheer. Why is this, because he’s overweight and likes blondes? Phil is nothing like you, unless you’re raking in about $62M this year, wear $2,000 belts, and sport a Rolex on the golf course (actually, if you wear any watch on the golf course, please tell me why for, truly, I am mystified by this practice). If you want a “man of the people” golfer, Boo Weekley is a much better choice, even if his act is contrived.
If it weren’t for the meltdowns, the stupid putter, the endless black and gray, the Callaway commercials, the nasally voice, the dynamics of his professional relationship with Bones, the whining and self loathing, the Ryder Cup record, the 4½ inch leap, the racing striped shirts, the San Diego Chargers fan thing (has anyone really liked the Chargers for more three years) as well as a hundred other things that don’t come to mind now, I might like Phil. I’ve tried, but you see the tremendous uphill climb which I have before me. As I said, I respect Mickelson. I wish I could like him, but I can’t.
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