JERSEY CITY, N.J. – Phil Mickelson grew up in San Diego and
went to school at Arizona State, but he's become the New York area's favorite
An incident in the middle of the first fairway at Liberty
National Friday morning shows why.
After making five bogeys through his first eight holes,
Mickelson made a 61-foot putt from the fringe on the 18th (his ninth) for a birdie.
The crowd roared and high-fives were exchanged as Phil strode to the first tee.
He then crushed a 335-yard drive that stopped in the fairway, 51 feet from the
As his playing partners — Kenny Perry and Lucas Glover — sized
up their approach shots from near the 100 yard marker, a fan called out to
Mickelson, "Hey Phil, I thought you were Kenny!"
Phil turned toward the fan and laughed along with the crowd.
Then, with his left thumb in his pocket, he subtly extended
his left middle finger downward and kept laughing.
The fan that had yelled out to him, along with the dozens of
fans braving the rain alongside the fairway, exploded in laughter.
Mickelson totally understands and accepts the New York
sports culture. He's always played a go-for-broke style that is exciting to watch, and his disappointments (Winged Foot), family challenges (wife Amy's breast cancer) and triumphs (Baltusrol) have humanized him in their eyes. The ribbing on the first hole Friday was good-natured, and Phil knew it. Like the guys at your club, sports
fans around here love to jab with athletes they consider friends. By playing
along, Mickelson shows that he's one of the guys.
The athletes New Yorkers really don't like are either
ignored or taunted. The difference is not subtle — just ask Sergio Garcia.
Mickelson followed that drive up with a stubbed chip that stopped six feet from the hole and his
birdie putt missed. What had seemed like the start of a Mickelson run turned
out to be a disappointing par.
But regardless of his score, one thing is certain: Whether
he's wearing pinstripes (as he did today) or not, Mickelson is an adopted New
(Photo by Rich Schultz/AP Photos)