After watching all the drama surrounding Phil Mickelson (Callaway Chrome Soft X) before the U.S. Open began, followed by his exit from the tournament on Friday after a total score of 11-over par that wasn’t even remotely close to making the cut, I truly feel sorry for him.
Clearly he is an individual undergoing a change in his career and his life that is hard to understand because of his decision to abandon the PGA Tour for LIV Golf.
He was grilled by an unrelenting media about matters pertaining to golf and politics, which is never a good mix, in particular if the subject includes 9/11. His answers were forced, as if he had been coached, which was likely the case because former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer is working with LIV Golf. It’s hard to think Fleischer wouldn’t have been involved directly or in part with Mickelson’s preparation for the media conference, which became testy.
Standing alone at a short table, as compared to seats, a long table and a moderator that was the case at the Canadian Open, Mickelson was clearly not comfortable.
The bottom line is Mickelson made the decision to align himself with LIV Golf. He is not the only one – and there will likely be more in the weeks to follow – but Mickelson has become the biggest target. Whereas he used to be comfortable or otherwise unafraid to voice his opinions about anything – notably his criticisms of the United States Golf Association’s setup of the U.S. Open – he now is guarded.
He admitted he has gone through therapy, has a gambling issue and has been a little too forthcoming in his comments, which is to say he has been told he talks too much for his own good.
His quips were part of his personality that was endearing. But now he is focused on a different mindset. He mentioned he is looking for more balance in his life.
Hopefully, he finds it. He has given so much to the sport, winning six majors and authoring one of the most virtuous stories when he took a year away from the game in 2009 to be with his wife, Amy, who was battling cancer, and won the Masters a year later. And then last year he won the 2021 PGA Championship, becoming the oldest player in history to record a victory in a major, swarmed at the 18th hole green by a gallery which embraced the moment with unbridled passion. That happened 13 months ago, but it seems like forever now.
Now, he is seen as someone who sold his soul for a reported guaranteed $200 million, which means it doesn’t matter how well he does in tournament play. But he has also lost the sponsors which paid him tens of millions of dollars and which he proudly endorsed in entertaining commercials being, well, Phil.
But we know now we won’t be seeing those commercials anymore, nor do we know when we will be seeing him play next. Whatever is next on the LIV schedule for him will not garner any significant attention in the media. The story has already been told.
Nor do we know if the PGA Tour, in particular Commissioner Jay Monahan, will forgive Mickelson and all the other players who have been branded as turncoats. After all the strife and turmoil that Mickelson and his fellow players have caused, it doesn’t seem as if Monahan will be offering them a Commissioner’s pardon.
But let’s be honest: most of the players who have defected to LIV Golf have already exceeded their best-before date, either because of age, play or a combination of both. The younger ones aren’t anyone of significance. So far, the best players in the world are sticking with the PGA, namely Rory McIlroy (TaylorMade TP5x), Justin Thomas (Titleist Pro V1x), Jon Rahm (Callaway Chrome Soft X), Scottie Scheffler (Titleist Pro V1), Hideki Matsuyama (Srixon Z Star XV) and Collin Morikawa (TaylorMade TP5), to be specific. The jury is still out on Brooks Koepka, who is fed up with talking about the issue.
He will be very much in the running for the final 36 holes of the U.S. Open, which he has won twice before. He will start at even par on Saturday after shooting three-under par on Friday, very much in striking position. He said following his round on Friday he didn’t come into the tournament looking to finish second. Koepka has not been shy about voicing his opinions, but he has walked the talk enough times to talk the talk.
One thing that is certain about all of this is there a price to pay when it comes to legacy. For all Mickelson has done, he will be remembered as a great golfer who left the tour that gave him fortune and fame for a pot of golf gold that some may say is ultimately fool’s gold.