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Why We Like Phil

March 23, 2009
March 23, 2009

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March 23, 2009

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Why We Like Phil

In honor of his winning score at the CA Championship, 19 reasons to show some love for Phil Mickelson

WHEW! That wasexhausting, watching Phil Mickelson shoot 19 under par last week, winning theCA Championship on the so-called Blue Monster course at Doral Resort & Spa.He beat Nick Watney by a shot, Camilo Villegas by six, Tiger Woods by eight,Rory McIlroy by 10 and, to varying degrees, 74 other touring professionals. Thelefthander played red-faced, dehydrated, hungry, exhausted and, for one shot,righthanded. ¬∂ With the possible exception of several cave-dwelling U.S.congressmen, you won't find a person who doesn't think Mickelson earned everyone of the 550 FedEx points he claimed on Sunday and every dime of his $1.4million winner's haul. RIP, Godfather of Soul: Dr. Phil is now thehardest-working man in showbiz. ¬∂ In honor of his winning score (to par),herewith are 19 things about Mickelson we're labeling Living Large with Dr.Phil. FYI: Phil already knows about the stiff neck you will develop next month,has identified the cause—your pillows don't have the right down count—and hewill be sending you, with his compliments, a pillow custom-made to meet yourcranial needs. Expect a delivery by (of course) FedEx and don't worry: Phil haschecked off the no-signature-required box and has instructed the driver toleave it by the back patio door, under the tarp. Enjoy!

This is an article from the March 23, 2009 issue

1. Phil's a peopleperson.
Phil didn't seem right last week. After one round he lay down on the floor inthe scorer's room after attesting his card. But he answered every last questionfrom reporters (in theory the fans' surrogate) and honored every last autographrequest.

2. Phil doesn'ttake himself too seriously.
One year Phil was playing poorly at Las Vegas. He was twirling a club andmulling a shot when he asked his caddie, "What do I got?" The caddie,Jim (Bones) Mackay, the only caddie Phil's had as a pro, said,"One-seventy-six." Phil dropped the club he was twirling and it fell onthe ball and pushed the ball forward. "One-seventy-five now," Mackaysaid. And Phil laughed.

3. Phil looksgood.
He's a big man, and he's not running from it, wearing, as of this year, tightEuropean-style golf shirts with buttons to hold down the collars, flat-frontpants, thick belts and long hair. If he were shooting 75, the look wouldn'twork. But he's not.

4. Phil's notafraid to experiment.
You know he tried to play the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines last year without adriver. He didn't win (18th place). In 2000 he essayed the Tour Championshipwithout a four-iron. East Lake, he reasoned, had no four-iron shots. In thefinal round, on the last hole, a long par-3, he was suddenly desperate for hisfour-iron. While he considered his options, the wind shifted and was nowhurting. Phil jumped on the tee, smashed a three-iron, knocked it on the greenand two-putted to win by a shot.

5. Phil looksafter his caddie.
After his second victory at Augusta, in '06, Phil made sure Mackay was inattendance at the club's Sunday-night dinner celebrating the new winner.

6. Phil looksafter his golf-nut friends.
On the Wednesday before the 2002 British Open at Muirfield, Phil surprised afriend, Bertis Downs of Athens, Ga., by getting in a car and making a two-hourdrive to the Old Course at St. Andrews for a casual game.

7. Phil looksafter his family.
After winning his first major, the '04 Masters, Phil was invited to the PGAGrand Slam in Hawaii over Thanksgiving. He brought his wife, Amy, and theirthree kids. Plus his brother and sister. And his parents. Plus Amy's siblings.And her parents. And he paid for everybody.

8. Phil loveskids.
One year at the International, Phil came upon a lemonade stand offering 50-centcups. Phil left a crumpled $100 bill and spied on the girls as they unfoldedtheir tip and realized he had just dropped a Franklin on them.

9. Phil knows howto tip.
On the Sunday night of his first Masters win, the first-floor locker roomattendants at Augusta National stood at the club entrance as Phil left for thenight in his green jacket. They gave the new winner giant hugs with tears intheir eyes. Next time and forevermore, Phil would be using the upstairschampions' locker room. What was good for Phil was bad for them, as Phil is aworld-class tipper.

10. Phil has theneed for speed.
In his rookie year in '92, at the B.C. Open, Phil got pulled over forspeeding—while making the half-mile drive from the clubhouse to the drivingrange.

11. Phil knows howto pull off a prank.
One year at Bay Hill his buddy Colin Montgomerie was in the paper complainingabout his poor tee times and obscure playing partners. Phil got a piece ofofficial PGA Tour stationery and wrote an official-sounding letter remindingMontgomerie that on the PGA Tour winners get paired with winners in the firsttwo rounds and generally don't get extreme tee times, and that if he wanted toremedy his situation he should try winning a Tour event. Mickelson watchedgleefully as Monty stewed over the letter. In time, he gave himself up.

12. Phil helpsstrangers.
One year at the L.A. Open, Phil was driving back to his hotel after lunch. Hewas on Santa Monica Boulevard in a downpour. He saw a homeless man on thesidewalk, pulled over, got the umbrella from his golf bag and gave it to theman.

13. Phil helpsfriends in need.
One year Phil agreed to play in the Dutch Open. He persuaded the tournamentorganizers to give a spot to a friend of his, Larry Barber (Miller Barber'sson), who was trying to get a pro career off the ground. Phil arranged for thetwo of them to play a practice round with Bernhard Langer and Seve Ballesteros.In the second round Larry made a hole in one. He missed the cut but won abike.

14. Phil lovessports.
In '01 he didn't leave Phoenix, where he was then living, to defend his titlein the Tour Championship. Reason: The Diamondbacks were playing the Yankees inthe World Series, and Phil had seats behind the home dugout.

15. Phil shareshis toys.
Last year Phil bought a new jet, a Gulfstream V. He flew to Scotland for atournament, his first flight ever on the plane. At the tournament he wassupposed to have lunch with a dozen or so winners of a Callaway giveaway. Therewas a mix-up, and the prize winners were all assembled in London. Phil flew thegroup up to Scotland in his new G5, with the gourmet food and the leather seatsand the warp speed, at his expense.

16. Phil'sloyal.
As a pro, Phil has had one caddie, one agent, one wife and two swing coaches:first Rick Smith and now Butch Harmon. Smith remains one of Phil's closestfriends, and Smith and his wife, Tricia, go on vacation with Phil and Amy atleast once a year.

17. Phil's happywith who he is.
He's not trying to be Tiger. He said two years ago, "If I have a great restof my career and win 20 more tournaments and seven more majors to get to 50wins and 10 majors, which would be an awesome career, I still won't get towhere he's at today." After his win on Sunday, reporters noted that Philwas now the No. 2 player in the world and closing in on Tiger. Phil was notimpressed. He noted that Tiger didn't play for 8½ months, during which timePhil won twice—and still couldn't catch him.

18. Philappreciates a fine New Jersey slice.
During his PGA win in '05 Phil fell so in love with the pie at Joe's Pizzeria,about a mile from Baltusrol, in Springfield, N.J., that he tried to lure Ehab,the shop's pie man, to move to pizza-deprived Scottsdale, Ariz., and open apizzeria there.

19. Phil's notpretentious.
He showed up for a charity outing at Torrey Pines last year wearing shorts,carrying his own bag and introducing himself to his playing partners by saying,"Hi. I'm Phil."

Insights andopinions from SI Golf Group writers and editors at GOLF.com/confidential.

At the B.C. Open, PHIL GOT PULLED OVER FORSPEEDING—while making the half-mile drive from the clubhouse to the range.
PHOTOPhotograph by Fred VuichUPS AND DOWNS Mickelson chipped in four times and needed only 99 putts at Doral.PHOTOPhotograph by Fred VuichBUSH WHACKED Lefty was forced to go righty after an errant tee shot at the 12th hole on Sunday.PHOTODARREN CARROLLPUTTER SPUTTER Woods was flustered on the greens.