THEY READ LIKE HANDWRITTEN notes from a bursting-proud grandmother. "Your beautiful children are very fortunate to have such a loving, devoted father. Congratulations on your life, Phil! You are most deserving."
Or like cards that your sister might select from the "Encouragement" rack at the Hallmark store.
"LUV YA, Phil! Can't wait for your next tournament. I enjoy watching you so much, my stomach is in knots all the time because I want so much for you to win!"
They read like birthday cards from mom.
"I'm so proud of you, Phil. You work hard at this game but you also show others what life is all about. You're the greatest guy in the world!"
And like secret missives from a clandestine lover."I can't stop sending messages to you! I don't know what's wrong with me!"
Here Tiger, I seem to be in your way; allow me to step aside and clear the path for you.
Holy s---, Phil I mean, are you sure?
Carve my name on that trophy, times 10, and call In-N-Out Burger, tell them I'M ON MY WAY.
Close friend Gary McCord is less understanding than Pelz. "Phil has never in his career thrown the field a bone like he did on the 18th at Winged Foot with the lead," McCord says candidly. "Even in his amateur days he never did anything like that. With his short game and knowledge of the finishing holes, I figured he could make 5 at worst. He made worse. It was like watching the movie Borat, when [the title character] and his 400-pound producer, Azamat, did their ass-to-nose nude wrestling; I could not watch."
The breakdown was mental. That's what Roland Carlstedt, Ph.D., of the American Board of Sport Psychology, believes from observing Mickelson's on-course personality. He says Mickelson has the traits of the gambler. "Addictions involve neuropsychological processes associated with lack of impulse control and inhibition of reward gratification seeking behavior," he says, "and the frontal lobes [of the brain] are heavily implicated in addictions, including gambling." The polls show that you, the people, agree. You're sure it was a mental face flop that wrecked Mickelson.
"I'm working on improving, based on the mistakes I made, with [teachers] Rick [Smith] and Dave [Pelz]," Mickelson says. "What's interesting was that shot I missed left on 18 was the same shot I missed left on 17, and the same shot I missed through all four rounds. I'm also working on a square-headed driver with Callaway; it's more stable and the ball goes straighter, less of a tendency to go left." But Mickelson's not working with a mental coach to exorcise what makes him try those shots.
Additional reporting by Steven Beslow