Trying to keep up with the words that come out of Phil Mickelson’s mouth can be an exhausting business.
Going into the WGC in Mexico in March of this year he hadn’t won anything in nearly five years, stretching back to his sparkling win at The Open at Muirfield.
Then he took down Justin Thomas, fresh from his hole-out at the 72nd hole, and told the world how he was in no doubt that he would get to 50 wins on the PGA Tour.
“Oh, I will get there,” said Mickelson, who had just notched his 43rd win to sit two behind Walter Hagen for all-time victories. “I don’t know when. Seven more wins and I’ll be there. I don’t have the month or the time, but I will get there.”
All of which tells us a lot about Phil Mickelson. He is staggeringly confident and not afraid to say what he thinks.
Earlier that week he had shooed away Shubhankar Sharma on the putting green thinking he was media. The following day they were paired together in the final threeball on Sunday.
The third member of their group was Tyrrell Hatton who was asked how he pronounced his first name. At the time Hatton was ranked 16th in the world and had played and featured in plenty of tournaments that Mickelson had been part of so you might easily suggest that this was all-out mind games. Or, to put it another way, just a bit of shitty behaviour.
Mickelson will certainly know now how to say ‘Tyrrell’ as the Englishman, who this weekend very nearly added a third straight win in the Dunhill Links – heard of that one, Phil? – was part of the European team that hammered the Americans at Le Golf National last week.
Which brings us to his latest shoot-from-the-hip outburst or, maybe, another well-rehearsed soliloquy.
Say what you like about Mickelson, and plenty do, but one big gist of his career is to expect the unexpected.
Only this year there was the whole hitting the ball on the run at Shinnecock Hills with the simple explanation of: “I was just going back and forth and I’d gladly take the two shots over continuing that display. No question it was going to go down into the same spot behind the bunker. You take the two shots and you move on.”
A few days later there was the more honest exchange with a handful of journalists: “I know this should’ve come sooner but it’s taken a few days to calm down. My anger and frustration got the best of me last weekend. I’m embarrassed by my actions. It was clearly not my finest moment and I’m sorry.”
This week just gone, after the first pointless Ryder Cup that Mickelson had just endured and the very odd concession while, to cap everything off, still being stood on a tee, the 48-year-old opened up with seven birdies at the Safeway Open. While many tittered at his efforts in France, just four days later he was threatening a 44th win on Tour.
And then this frankly odd rant about Le Golf National, the latest in a long list of quotes that only Mickelson could put together.
“The Europeans did a great thing. They did the opposite of what we do when we have the Ryder Cup here. The fairways were 14 to 16 yards wide. Ben Hogan, who is the greatest ball striker of all time, had a 5% margin of error. So if you hit the ball 300 yards, which we all hit it more than that, you need to have a 30-yard wide fairway to be able to hit it.
“The fact is, they had brutal rough, almost unplayable, and it’s not the way I play. I don’t play like that. And I’m 48. I’m not going to play tournaments with rough like that any more. It’s a waste of my time. I’m going to play courses that are playable and that I can play aggressive, attacking, make a lot of birdies, style of golf I like to play.”
There’s plenty to go at here.
The Hogan stats don’t just pop out of your mouth, they’re well-researched and used for a reason. Mention Hogan, use a bit of clout.
To state the bleeding obvious the Europeans, and a handful of Mickelson’s team-mates, played the same course and managed plenty of birdies. It’s not a new thing to set up a course to suit yourselves, both home teams have done it for decades. There will have been plenty of visits by Jim Furyk, Mickelson even managed one himself in the summer while there was a small party of his peers the week before The Open.
Will he be skipping future US Opens? The PGA is at Bethpage Black so maybe he’ll give that a swerve?
If we have a look at how Mickelson viewed the course at the start of Ryder Cup week then his opinion is a little different.
“I think it’s an incredible golf course. I think the consensus amongst all the players is that it’s a wonderful test of golf. The set-up is as good as it could possibly be. It’s just in pristine, immaculate shape, and yet provides a very good challenge that’s a fair challenge. I think it’s a wonderful test.”
Yes, this was Mickelson on the Tuesday before the matches started. He went on…
“At Hazeltine you saw a lot of birdies. You saw a lot of aggressive play and I think you’ll see less aggressiveness, more conservative tee-to-green, but once you get on the greens, they are a little bit flatter and you can really make putts here. You can be aggressive from 20 to 40 feet. I think you’re going to see a lot of putts made, and that will be most likely the difference.”
From “as good as it could possibly be”, “a fair challenge” and “a wonderful test” to “a waste of my time” in a little over a week.
Who knows what the next year holds in store for Mickelson? He has already said that he’ll play a limited schedule and only tee it up at courses he enjoys.
As always with Phil the Thrill, it will be fascinating to see how it plays out.