How are you
celebrating Phil Mickelson Day today? It’s not a bank holiday or
anything, but it is a big day in the world of golf. Phil
Mickelson appeared Wednesday at Torrey Pines to face the media for the
first time this year, which means a flood of Phil stories today. Here’s
your guide to the Philly Mick buffet: Steve Elling, CBSSports.com
Like any other San Diego schlub, native son Phil Mickelson
showed up at Torrey Pines on Sunday, opened his trunk and hauled his
lightweight carry bag out of the car. Mickelson has played Torrey a zillion times — his high school matches were often staged on the course — but this year, it was hard not to interpret the dawn-patrol, dew-sweeping outing as a true indication of his intent this season. “He’s jacked up and ready to go,” said his coach, Butch Harmon. “I have never seen him this confident to start a year. My only concern is that
he’s like a race horse, jumping around in the starting gate.”
Phil Mickelson held his season-opening news conference
Wednesday and wore out the verb excited. During the 27-minute session,
he used a variation of the word 10 times. And that was just while
answering the first four questions.
He’s jacked up because he finished last year on an uptick and
because he has improved his putting, driving and body. What’s more, the
breast cancer of wife Amy and mother Mary appear under control to the
point he says, “Things are going very well. Taking some weaknesses and turning them into strengths gives me the
confidence or the belief this could be an exceptional year.”
He’ll play four of the next five weeks. He originally had planned to
play all of them but now will skip the WGC-Accenture Match Play to take
a family vacation that was rescheduled because of medical procedures
during the offseason. That means the Match Play will be held without
the players ranked Nos. 1-2 in the world, a worst-case scenario.
Phil Mickelson, we’re begging you to step up. If you don’t fill a
certain void, golf might fade into NHL-like irrelevance on the American
sports scene. “Nobody will be able to fill the shoes that are voided
right now,” Mickelson said Wednesday in California.
True enough, but he’s the only one who can make the non-aligned sports
fan care about golf. Though in true State of the Union spin, the PGA
has been trying to convince us there’s more to golf than You Know Who.
In case you haven’t heard, Mr. Woods has
traded in his 14 clubs for 12 steps of sexual rehab. To paraphrase the
Cialis ad, “Men who experience an erection lasting more than four
seconds when thinking about Omar Uresti should seek immediate medical attention.” This
is the week when the SUV really hits the fire hydrant. It’s the
Farmers Insurance Open. That’s the new official name, anyway. The
unofficial one is The First Tournament Tiger Usually Plays. The void is
so bad that Brandt Snedecker was brought into Torrey Pines’ interview
The burden is substantial, probably far heavier than
anyone could reasonably be asked to bear. In his absence, nobody could
be expected to make us forget about Tiger Woods. But Phil Mickelson, at
least, is the best bet to step into the gaping hole created by Woods
and give golf fans something else to talk about.
Phil Mickelson is supremely confident, exceptionally talented and, in
this particular circumstance, excessively overmatched. All Mickelson is
being asked to do is keep the PGA Tour relevant while its biggest newsmaker remains hunkered beneath the radar sweep. As long as Tiger Woods is away, Mickelson ranks as golf’s most captivating figure, the only other battle-proven performer capable of making people look.
Phil quote worth noting: “Well, my whole career I’ve been trying to get to No. 1. I just haven’t had much success. But this year, whether or not Tiger is in the field, I still believe that this is an opportunity for me to compete in majors, to challenge him. I’ve had some great head-to-head success in the last year or two, and I expect
this year with or without him to be one of the best years of my career.”