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.