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Phil Mickelson, Golf's Renaissance Man, is a Natural for the Match

Lefty has become a man for all seasons, whether it's sparring with the Manning brothers on Monday Night Football or reporting from Wynn Las Vegas in the middle of Brooks vs.  Bryson, writes Morning Read's Dan O'Neill.
Phil Mickelson plays the 2021 Rocket Mortgage Classic.

Phil Mickelson will join Charles Barkley on commentary this week for the Match.

Diversity has been part of Phil Mickelson’s portfolio. After all, he swings a golf club left-handed, goes by the nickname of “Lefty," but does pretty much everything else in his life right-handed.

Remember when he was getting pitching tips from Tom House and toying with the idea of pitching in a professional baseball game? He wasn’t a crafty southpaw toeing the slab, he was a hard-throwing right-hander — albeit one who didn’t throw hard enough.

In context, 2021 has been a complex year for Mickelson. He seemed to be putting down the landing gear on an illustrious PGA Tour career when the year began. But then he stunned the sports world by winning the PGA Championship in May. That major championship at the age of 50 will resonate for years to come.

Acting more his age, he was far less competitive over the remainder of the PGA Tour schedule. And yet, he won two championships in three starts on the PGA Champions Tour, making it four out of six over the past two seasons. Second City has never had one of its events won by a reigning regular-tour major champion.

It makes no sense, like Jordan Spieth checking into assisted living, or Tony Bennett winning a Grammy in Alternative Rock.

But Mickelson hasn’t just stood out as a player. He also has been a successful caddie, that is, if you’ve seen the Workday television commercials. Wearing a looper’s bib, Mickelson guides Andy Buckley through a testy day of business, making some timely “swing” tips. His call on the cup of decaf with almond milk, no sugar, seems to demonstrate he had walked the course and was well-prepared.

So what else can Mickelson accomplish in golf in one year? He could broadcast golf, of course.

When TNT puts Capital One’s The Match into the prime-time air at 4 p.m. (ET) Friday from the Wynn Las Vegas, it won’t be featuring Mickelson with a wedge in his hand, as it has previously. This time, it features Mickelson with a microphone. And given his color-commenting partner-in-crime is Charles Barkley, it could well mean the peanut gallery will be more entertaining than the performance of the combatants — Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau.

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“Charles is one of the funniest people I know and he’s one of the quickest wits," Mickelson said recently. 

In addition to trading quips with Barkley, lead announcer Brian Anderson and on-course reporter Amanda Balionis, the man with the Phil Kwan Do Calves was scheduled to conduct Q&A embellishments with both DeChambeau and Koepka.

“That’s a different dynamic,” said Mickelson, more accustomed to answering questions than asking them. “I’ll have a chance to be on course with them, too, and try to get out some of the personalities, some of the thought processes.”

“Personality” is the operative ingredient here, and what the TV types had in mind when they merged Mickelson with “Sir Charles,” formerly the “Round Mound of Rebound,” more recently the “Mouth that Roars.”

The two bring a unique partnership to the proceedings, having teamed up as playing partners in last year’s “competition,” trading barbs and defeating the team of Stephen Curry and Peyton Manning. After all, the DeChambeau-Koepka “rivalry” seemed to lose some of its social-media sizzle when the two teammates bro-hugged at the conclusion of the Ryder Cup.

And to be kind, neither player is known for being a dynamic, colorful personality. Let’s face it, “The Match” isn’t purely about golf, not even primarily, one might argue. This is more like golf’s version of “Fantasy Island,” with Mr. Roarke and Tattoo.

Mickelson believes he and Barkley have some chops: “You know, we’re partners and we’ve won before, so we have a certain credibility when we talk about ‘The Match’ that I think will provide some insight, too,” Mickelson said.

Meanwhile, “Mick at Mic” got in some 20 minutes of practice during last week’s "Monday Night Football with Peyton and Eli” telecast, hopping on with Peyton and Eli Manning. Mickelson drew social media praise for his football-related questions, asking Peyton what he and/or San Francisco quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo would be thinking about, or looking for, as they stood under center.

He even had a witty response for a question from Eli. The younger of the quarterbacking brothers asked Mickelson what he thought about the “Manningcast Curse.” For the uninitiated, all six active NFL players who previously had appeared on the Manningcast this year had been on the losing end in their next game — hence the “curse.”

Mickelson didn’t hesitate: “That’s why I’m not playing this week.”