Monday, July 22, 2013

Something About Phil

What is it about Phil Mickelson, that prevents him from being universally liked - nay, loved - by golf fans and the media?

What about him could possibly make some people in the media and some golf fans actively root for him to fail (again) in majors, and to take giddy delight when he does?

I know, I know. I myself have dubbed him "Nipples McSoft" (in a more doughy time of his) and blasted his "Father of the Year" stunts like skipping the Tour Championship to go trick-or-treating with his kids.

I know.

But I always gave him his due on the course. And I always made sure to say that we are all hypocrites as fans and media when it comes to athletes who are simply too nice, too classy, or too graceful in defeat.

I think Phil draws this sort of fire because he really does appear to be, "too good to be true." I mean, the guy signs way too many autographs (even so yesterday before and after he won the Claret Jug!) he's too good with the media, and handles his own golfing fuck ups with simply too much grace and humanity to be real.

But it is, mostly real.

He's a prince. A helluva family man. And yeah, a goofball.

I think that's where Phil draws his anti-Phil incoming fire. He's not a "phony" - there's simply no alternate resume of incidents which would say he's an asshole when the cameras are turned off. He's just a goofball. A cheeseball. Dork.

And if that's the biggest knock against a man, well then, you are doing pretty well.

If Phil just cut that hair, stopped making the rest of us fathers look utterly derelict by comparison, and found just a little bit harder "edge" to his persona (not much, just a single notch on a big dial in the direction of "jerk") I would be a hard core Phil Phanatic.

I'm not. Likely never will be. But I am happy when he wins like this. He deserves it, and golf is a sport of perseverance.

I remember when many golf writers too not-so-subtle delight in him being "0-for-43" in majors before winning the Masters in 2004. It was asinine and I didn't get it.

Being good in sports, and being a good guy, carries an extra burden in the world we live in these days. A burden to somehow prove it's not "an act." If you fail to match the media's snarkiness over your failures with equal bite, you start to become an easy target.

Phil's no easy target now. He's climbing the pantheon of greats to ever play the game.

5 Majors - including 3 of the 4
6 Seconds at the US Open
43 Tour Wins, 1 every year for the last 10 years and 18 of his last 20!
US Amateur Title
Won a pro event as a collegian
Been on every US team event (Ryder and Presidents Cup) since he turned pro, and will likely do so until he's 50. With Tiger's injury hiatus stopping his streak, nobody will own a longer streak in the post-Nicklaus era. Ever.

And he's the single best short game magician the game has ever seen. Period. Full stop.

Seve was magical in his own way, but had none of the aerial arsenal Phil has with all of his flop shots.

Perfect wife. Perfect kids. She beat cancer. He's beating back auto-immune arthritis. One loyal caddy through all of it. Generous with his time, money, and media availability.

It's okay to "hate" him for that. It's natural. Just remember to keep it the kind of "hate" where you say: "Oh... I hate that guy. Look at his life!"


  1. phil is a cool dude. i like his game cuzz he's not afraid to go for broke rather than play the safe shot, yah i prolly cost him a us open but that's who he is and why he resonates with me. plus he likes to wager a little on the side. you tell me who you think would be more enjoyable to golf with than have a beer on the 19th. Phil or Tiger??

    alos a great family man. who do i want my kids to emulate? mickelson or pick any dead beat dad playing in the nfl or nba.

    his wife is cute and all but she's got just a little to much katie couric going on there.

  2. One thing that I keep noticing more and more is he is really good when somebody puts a microphone in front of him. I literally fast forward past interviews with Tiger; his curt, douchey answers have worn thin. Phil not only says the right thing, which is always something to respect, but he also provides substantive answers.

  3. Phil is a class act. And I agree with Tick Tock, the guy goes for broke, which makes him the most exciting player on tour.

  4. Agree with Hozel, I love hearing Phil speak. He gives honest, heartfelt answers even when he's at his lowest. His connection with Bones is wonderful, and I really don't see how anyone can not like the guy. Just like one of the ESPN crew pointed out yesterday, when Tiger hits a bad shot her curses on camera, Phil makes a bad shot and tells Bones, "my bad".

  5. Friend of mine met him at Whistling Straights in Kohler/Sheboygan WI for the PGA. Said he was by far the most fan friendly golfer. Was there early to properly warm up and make time for the fans. Love to see him win, though I was pulling for Westwood to win his first major....just so people will quit calling him one of the best never to win a major.

  6. Who's been hating on Phil? Never hear that anywhere. He's been one of the most popular golfers on tour for well over a decade. Media darling since his days at ASU. They love how he handles the crowd in Phoenix. I'm fine with Phil, not a huge fan but I'm completely unfamiliar with the hating you're referring to.

  7. Great commentary Czabe - over the years I've keyed in on your opinion of Phil and I too have heard the grumblings (indirectly) that he's not the most well liked out there on tour but there is really no way to avoid the fact that he's the second most talented player of our generation. He may have skeletons in his closet but his consistency in the way he deals with the press and public is amazing. Somewhat begrudgingly, I've come around to be a Phil fan and I really hope he can pull the career slam next year at Pinehurst.

    Again - a really great post here - thanks. - Jay Dell