SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. — It's no secret that Long Islanders love Phil Mickelson. While he receives an overwhelming amount of support all around the world, the Lefty love-fest is at its peak when the Tour stops on Long Island. Phil might be able to give Billy Joel a run for his money as Long Island’s favorite son this week…and Mickelson is from California.
With the U.S. Open approaching, a colleague posed the question to me, "What is it about Phil that Long Islanders love so much?"
As a Long Islander who did indeed grow up rooting for Mickelson, you would think I could answer that without hesitation. Instead, I paused for a moment. “That’s a good question.”
I crowdsourced this same question to spectators upon my arrival at Shinnecock on Monday. I spoke with roughly 20 people from Long Island (the only requirement for this exercise) and every one of them is pulling for Phil this week. Some were also rooting for other players, most notably Tiger, but they all cited Phil as a player they wanted to see hoist the U.S. Open trophy on Sunday.
Here are some of their reasons:
"He has a gutsy way about his style of play," said Rob Faganilia, 52, from Northport. "I see him try to hit through narrow windows or over trees the same way I would during my weekend game. Albeit more successful, but it's cool to see a Tour player take those kind of chances."
"I feel like I know him on a personal level," said Joe Monclair, 37, from Lynbrook. "He wears his emotions on his sleeve out there. You see his excitement and disappointment with each shot. He’s one of the few guys that opens up during his interviews where I feel like I really know the guy."
"Phil’s the man," said Will Matthews, 28, from Rockville Centre. "His gambling stories are legendary. There’s always got to be something on the line with him, and I’m the same way. My dream foursome would be Phil and myself taking on Tiger and my brother in a match. I’ll let Phil and Tiger decide themselves what we’d play for…"
"There’s just something about Phil always going for it that I can relate to," said Mark Powers, 43, from Farmingdale. "He might not always win, but you’ll never catch him playing for second."
"My dad likes him so I do, too," said Mark’s son, 13-year-old Terry Powers.
"He was raised right,” Mark said, laughing.
"I like that he’s always smiling and acknowledging the fans," said Stephanie Lieberman, 34, of Levittown. "That goes a long way for me. He embraces us and we embrace him."
As for my thoughts, it's a combination of all the above. I've always thought of Long Islanders as people who are brash with their words and don’t hold anything back with their actions. I think you can find those same characteristics in Phil’s game. Long Islanders can’t imagine living any other way, and Phil can't imagine playing any other way. It's a match made in golf heaven.
The old saying goes: "New York loves a winner." A U.S. Open win here would give Long Islanders the chance to show Phil the kind of love even he hasn’t seen from fans often.