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The Case for Phil Mickelson to Step Away, With Grace, From the Regular PGA Tour

Morning Read's Mike Purkey writes that now is the perfect time for Lefty, 51, to join the senior circuit or the broadcast booth before chasing a dream turns into a delusion
Phil Mickelson missed the cut at the 2022 American Express.

Phil Mickelson missed the cut at the 2022 American Express.

About a year ago, I put one more headcover in my golf bag. I retired my 4-iron and replaced it with a hybrid, my first concession to age. But the decision wasn’t made easily or lightly. In fact, I was stubborn as hell. I kept alive the long deceased idea that I could still flush a 4-iron. I can – about once in every five tries and only when it’s sitting on a tee.

While I hated it at first, my relationship with the 4-hybrid blossomed into a beautiful thing and I’ve often wondered why I didn’t take a big gulp of pride and make the switch sooner. My golf life is happier as a result.

I said that to make this plea to Phil Mickelson: If you’re listening, don’t hang onto to the notion that one extraordinarily magical week means you can beat kids half your age week in and week out on the PGA Tour. Don’t let the dream morph into a delusion so that you can’t tell the difference.

Winning the PGA Championship at age 51 was one of the best stories in golf, maybe in all of sport. Was. It’s over and you’re part of history. This is now and the truth is, bud, you’re playing old man golf out there at the moment.

Seven-over after three rounds of the American Express last week, MC, almost DFL. You did clip (by one) the 6-foot-9 dude from South Africa, James Hart du Preez, who really hits bombs, like 80 or 90 past you.

It was obvious to everyone that you were wandering around lost in the desert, especially with the putter. You went armlock in the first round, regular putter in the second and back to armlock in the third. That’s what elderly people do.

And honestly, you’re not hitting bombs. It might feel or appear that way — if you can see that far — but you rank 167th in driving distance this season. That’s popcorn hitter territory compared with the kids who can really move it off the tee. It’s only senior long.

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In eight events after last May’s PGA Championship, you missed the cut at Colonial, the Open Championship (80 in the first round) and the Northern Trust. In the other five, four were T61 or worse, which means near the bottom of those who made the cut. You were 30th out of 38 at the Sentry Tournament of Champions.

The truth is you can’t find your keester with both hands and Google Maps. Unless we’re talking about the PGA Tour Champions and we’re not. Unless, of course, you want to bring it up.

Yes, all that could change in an instant. Coming into last year’s PGA Championship, your previous four events included two MC and T69 at the Wells Fargo, finishing with 75-76-76 – after a first-round 64.

So, we know that a flicker of hope, one good swing, seeing a few putts go in could all mean that yes, this could be the week. Whenever that week happens to be. Maybe Torrey Pines (+20000 on SI Sportsbook) or Pebble Beach, where you’ve won more than once. Maybe, dare we say it, the Masters in April. Another green jacket would be the story of the year, unless by some miracle it’s won by Tiger instead.

You’re a gambling man, obviously, who’s never afraid of any long odds action. But, Phil, from now on, you’re always going to be the ‘dog and never the favorite. You’re right, the negative money line isn’t where the big winnings are. Still, fighting the odds week in and week out never got anyone to the pay window regularly, either. Sharp money simply won’t be on you.

Apparently, a number of people with disposable income like you at Augusta. The No. 1 golf bet on SI Sportsbook is +8000 on you to win the Masters. But that’s sentimental money, the action that Tiger would get if he was in the field. The sharps will be playing elsewhere.

Far be it from me to tell you what to do. However, I won’t hesitate to remind you that you won three of the four events you entered on the PGA Tour Champions last year. You really hit bombs out there. And you’d be the next big thing on TV, where there’s a job waiting with your name on it. All that’s required is for you to say the word.

It’s perfectly OK to believe and hope and dream. That’s the currency of our game. But no amount of mystical blend coffee or 1,000 daily calf raises will conjure up the magic. That’s left to the golf gods and you might have used all your quota.

Never be afraid to admit that Father Time is undefeated. In fact, right now, I’m casting a sideways glance at my 5-iron