Lefty shows his true colours: Self-obsessed golfer puts himself above anyone else

Robert Thompson

On Golf

The public is finally seeing Phil Mickelson for what he truly is: another self-obsessed athlete who puts his interests well ahead of the fans’.

Mickelson made this clear last week when he announced he would not play for the remainder of the year and he would skip the Grand Slam of Golf, an event only open to golfers who have won one of the game’s four major championships.

It is a good thing for Canadian Mike Weir who, despite a back injury, will fill the vacant spot. But Mickelson’s decision to shut it down until 2007 shows that, given the amount of cash available to the top pro golfers, they can essentially ignore the fans that support the game.

Of course putting himself first is nothing new for Mickelson. Sure, golf’s individualistic nature makes it necessary. But while Mickelson always has a big smile on his face for television, and comes across to the public as a likable, friendly family man, the truth is that most golfers, and many of the reporters that regularly follow the tour find him disingenuous. That notion was backed up earlier this year when GQ magazine listed him as one of the 10 stars most disliked by those within their sports.

Not that this should surprise anyone. Mickelson has made some suspect career moves in recent years. In 2004, just on the cusp of playing the Ryder Cup in Oakland Hills, Mickelson decided to dump his equipment deal with Titleist and take a multi-million dollar deal to play Callaway clubs. He played in one full tournament with the new gear (the Canadian Open at Glen Abbey) and never appeared comfortable with the clubs and new ball. His teammates quietly grumbled that Mickelson’s decision to switch equipment was selfish and foolhardy.

Fast forward to two weeks ago when Mickelson showed up in Ireland for this year’s Ryder Cup. He was already grumbling that his schedule had left him fatigued. And he played like he would rather have been somewhere else. His dismal record — 1-8-1 in his last two Ryder Cups — should force the next U.S. team captain to ask Phil whether he really wants to play in the team event. He may be the second-ranked golfer in the world, but when it comes to the Ryder Cup, Mickelson looks like a disenchanted journeyman.

His decision to essentially stop playing following the PGA Championship also raises interesting questions in relation to the PGA Tour’s much vaunted FedEx Cup, the playoff scheme that will be launched next year. Many have suggested the US$10-million dollar prize for the winner will actually stir the likes of Mickelson and Tiger Woods to play on a regular basis after the middle of August.

But if Mickelson isn’t interested in the US$1.25-million purse available in the two-day Grand Slam of Golf, one has to wonder how often he will be willing to show up at the lesser tournaments that dot the end of the tour’s annual calendar, regardless of the available cash.

Mickelson is on holidays now, playing just one tournament since the PGA Championship, although he seems to have been on vacation since handing the U.S. Open to Geoff Ogilvy.

The shine has certainly come off since then.

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Robert Thompson

A bestselling author and award-winning columnist, Robert Thompson has been writing about business and sports, and particularly golf, for almost two decades. His reporting and commentary on golf has appeared in Golf Magazine, the Globe and Mail, T&L Golf and many other media outlets. Currently Robert is a columnist with Global Golf Post, golf analyst for Global News and Shaw Communications, and Senior Writer to ScoreGolf. The Going for the Green blog was launched in 2004.

10 CommentsLeave a comment

  • I am no more and no less a fan of Phil Mickelson for taking time off. As far as I’m aware, although the fans are what make every single player out there, isn’t everyone in life mostly self-interested? I mean lets be serious even doctors take time off. Although fans are important whats the use of playing if you don’t want to? Do the fans really want to see Phil put on a dismal display of golf like he did in the Ryder Cup? Maybe in Phil’s mind he’s doing his fans a favor. Maybe he believes that some time off is what he needs to play well again and playing well for his fans is a priority. The truth is the media doesn’t like Phil very much, but on the flip side of the coin, I’m sure he doesn’t like the media very much either. Therefore, its not a big surprise that the media gets down on him for doing something he feels he needs to do to improve his game. Even if the desicion is totally self-interested I have nothing but respect for a man who wants to spend time with his family. If you can do it, why wouldn’t you? I would.


  • I think it is more than just spending time with his family. Phil works hard at creating this all american image…smiles when the camera shines on him and then apparently treats everyone else with some level of contempt when the camera stops rolling…promotes a family first image and then there are allegations of a very serious gambling habit (which is not unusual for those athletes but not necessarily those that work so hard on promoting a family oriented image)…

    Many pro golfers go out of their way to support events or efforts of Arnold Palmer, partly I think to recognize that they would not have the lifestyle and opportunities they do without the things Arnie did to pave the way for the game today. Many golfers would not have the life they have today without the support and devotion of many fans. It seems as though Phil takes from the game what he needs and does not apparently give back the same way that others do…and hence he has this reputation of being self centred and focused only on Phil.

    I suspect we do not have the full story but there seems to be a lot of smoke on this issue….and when there is smoke, there is usually fire…

    And yes, Doctors take vacation but is that vacation for the better part of 4 months of the year? And, “Maybe in Phil’s mind he’s doing his fans a favor. Maybe he believes that some time off is what he needs to play well again and playing well for his fans is a priority”… I think any reasonable person would argue that not playing from basically the PGA onwards for the rest of the year seems like a lot of time and if playing well for his fans is indeed a priority, then he would stagger his schedule or otherwise reorient his life to enable him to compete at a high level through the Tour Championship. He chooses not to do that.

  • I agree with Frank.

    Golfers are independent business people. Unlike other sports, they don’t sign multi year contracts with guaranteed money. If they play well they get paid. If they play poorly, they don’t make any money. In this environment, each golfer is responsible for his own welfare, because there is no multi year contract in place that looks after him when he isn’t playing well.

    We can’t have it both ways. If golfers’ welfare depends on their ability to perform each week to earn a cheque then we can’t very well force them to play if they don’t want to. This is what makes golf so different than other sports. Golfers essentially ‘eat what they kill’. Just ask David Duval who hasn’t earned a decent cheque for some time. In this capitalistic environment (which is golf) we can’t very well force golfers to play if they don’t want to. It is up to them to manage their careers and their play and their performance.

    I don’t care how big his smile is or isn’t or whether he is an angel or not. What matters is whether he plays well or not. I think that what fans care about too! David Duval was a nice guy, and am sure that he had a lot of fans, but those fans aren’t going to pay his bills now that is isn’t playing well!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Mickelson doesn’t owe us anything, just like we don’t owe him anything if he can’t make a cut.

    So stop picking on him RT.

    Angry Alfie.

  • Lefty had an abysmal year in 2003 and he went like 0-for-6 at the President Cup that year in South Africa. Amy had a tough labor during the birth of their 3rd child. He went into seclusion and then came out gun blazing in 2004, and as they said, the rest is history.

    After his relapse at Winged Foot, he is not the same person since. I think he is simply trying to get away from the game and try to collect himself.

    While I am no fan of his, I certain do understand his decision can appreciate a person trying to find his way…

  • You think Phil who has earned just under $40,000,000 in PGA Tour career earnings plus probably close to the same money in endorsements gives a hoot what people think about when he plays or doesn’t play? He could stop playing completely and live comfortably on what he has in the bank and in investments. Don’t we all wish we could do the same at his age?

  • I would agree that there appears to be 2 distinct golf seasons this year:

    Prior to Phil collapse at the US Open….and after (Tiger takes over).

    Too bad Phil, skipping the Grand Slam won’t win you very many points with golf fans around here!

  • I wish I had enough money to tell my boss, “Sorry I missed scheduling those last few appointments. I must be losing my form–I’m going to take the rest of the year off to collect myself. See you in January.”

  • I agree with your article about Phil, I agree with all the comments about Phil, but he’s still a wanker despite what Ford, Callaway and others do to project that all American smile imagery (all american is significant).

  • Your article last October on Phil Mickelson was very interesting. Saying that “the self obsessed golfer puts himself above everyone else.”
    So he didn’t play in a few golf tournaments. So what? Maybe you should research exactly what he DID a lot of that time. He was overseeing his foundation, and actually was out helping build homes, homes for our soldiers who come back from Iraq with special needs.

    I suggest you contact Bob Verdi from Golf World magazine. He knows a lot more about Phil Mickelson than you’ll ever know. Read his article about Phil and ex NL star Conrad Dobler. I suggest you publish another article telling your readers about the real Phil.

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