Is this what we're doing? Hating Phil now and worshipping Tiger?
Sorry, I'm out and here's why ...
(Excerpted from "So Help Me Golf: Why We Love the Game" ... available on Amazon)
I’m a Phil Mickelson guy, not a Tiger Woods guy, and here’s why: Phil lets us into his life. Tiger stations Dobermans at the door of his. It doesn’t matter what’s happening in Phil’s life, whether wife Amy is about to give birth at the same time he’s trying to win his first major, or his mom is fighting cancer, or he’s just been diagnosed with arthritis, he’s always as open as a brand-new Safeway.
I’ve been to his house. I have his number. I’ve had 50 one-on-ones with him. I’ve never been to Tiger’s house. I don’t have his number. I haven’t had a one-on-one with him since 1997. Tiger’s thoughts are on a need-to-know basis, and nobody needs to know. Phil practically gives you the passkey to his mind.
And what a mind it is. Phil Mickelson is easily the most fascinating athlete I’ve ever covered. Every golfer goes to teachers to get better. Phil goes to scientists. Remember the constant chewing of gum to “help me release nervous tension”? Remember the three deep meditative breaths before every shot at his Kiawah PGA win to “elongate focus”? Remember him working with a rifle sharpshooter to “control heart rate”?
And that’s just golf. Phil also studies philosophy, space, and literature. He explores astrology, the human body, and military history. He has an actual T. rex skull on his entryway table. Tiger? Tiger plays video games.
No matter where he is overseas, Tiger looks for a McDonald’s and eats there. Phil travels the world and tries nearly everything.
I’ve petted lion cubs in Africa with him, gotten drunk out of the claret jug with him, had long off-the-record talks about his future and mine with him.
He’s fabulous dinner company. For instance, at the yearly Masters champions dinner, “all the young guys try to get a chair at Phil’s table,” Jordan Spieth says. “Because you know Phil is going to be holding court.” The year Australia’s Adam Scott hosted, he served pavlova for dessert. When it arrived, Phil announced, with fanfare, “Pavlova was inspired by the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova, when she was touring through Australia.”
Everybody looked at him, dumbfounded. “I got $100 says that’s not right,” challenged Zach Johnson.
Phil took the bet, but since no phones are allowed at the dinner, nobody could Google it. They didn’t have to. “See, my daughter was a dancer,” Phil explained, pocketing the $100. “And she was doing a paper on Anna Pavlova, so I made 32 pav- lovas for her class.”
Well, what multimillionaire hasn’t?
Tiger is famously distant with fans. He hates to sign or pose. At Pro-Ams, he’s working on his own shots and doesn’t give a warm pitcher of spit about yours. Phil, meanwhile, works every shot for any amateur who asks and many who don’t. The world discovered that during The Match series. You could hear how much help Phil gave Tom Brady on every chip and putt. I mean, Phil won one of the things with Charles Barkley as his partner, so you tell me he’s not a miracle worker.
True, Tiger has had the far better career, has made more money, and will go down as the Best Golfer in History on a whole lot of lists. But he’s also had the Titanic of sex scandals, a divorce, a stint in rehab, more surgeries than a MASH unit, a fractured relationship with his three half brothers, two arrests for driving while goofy on pills, and an unforced, no-skid-mark debilitating car wreck that nearly killed him.
Phil, meanwhile, until this Saudi thing, has been largely scandal-free. But did he kill anybody? What he said was stupid and he regrets it. Dumb mistake. But did he roofie somebody? Is this the same Phil the tour just gave $8M to for being so great on social media with the fans? This will pass, quickly, and when it does, we'll still find that good, fun, fascinating guy. He's still married to the love of his life, has a great relationship with his siblings, his fans and his kids, has explored the world, and has the joy of being endlessly fascinated by it.
Whose life would you rather have?