Lefty erased “Classic Phil” moments
As Phil Mickelson hit his second shot on the par-5 13th hole at the Masters Sunday, the golf world collectively groaned.
“Classic Phil,” we thought. “His aggression is going to screw him over again.”
In those five or six seconds after he struck the ball with his 6-iron, the life of Phil flashed before our eyes.
We remembered the disaster at Winged Foot in 2006. Entering that 18th hole with the lead, only needing par to win his first US Open, he hit his driver into a hospitality tent, then ended up in a bunker, then double-bogeyed to lose. “I am still in shock that I did that.” Mickelson uttered, “I just can’t believe that I did that. I’m such an idiot.”
We remembered the 2008 US Open. With his 64-degree wedge, he hit his approach short and we watched the ball roll all the way down the hill. Then we watched him do it again – three more times. It took Phil four shots to get on the green, and he finished with a quadruple-bogey.
We remembered the 2009 Masters. Paired with Tiger in one of the most exciting Augusta duos ever, Phil racked up six birdies on the front nine — tying a Masters record — only to hit a 9-iron on 12 into Rae’s Creek for bogey, followed by a bogeys 15 and 17, ruining our dreams of a Tiger/Phil top two at Augusta.
We remembered just weeks ago at Bay Hill. On the 6th hole, while the rest of the field tries to lay up their tee shot, Phil tried clearing a massive lake to have shot at going for it in two, and instead of the cup, he found the drink.
Then, as we remembered all of Phil’s overambitious attempts at greatness, the camera panned low and we saw the ball drop.
Right next to the hole. From 209 yards out. Over water. From a lie on pine straw. From behind a tree. And we forgot all those risky Phil shots.
And then, in typical Phil fashion, he missed the eagle putt.
“Classic Phil,” we thought.
Phil’s third green jacket seemed improbable from the start. He had Tiger on his tail. He had a charging Lee Westwood to contend with at the top. He even had a pine seed fall exactly in his ball’s way during a putt on the first hole.
And then his drive pushed right on the 13th to set up his instant-classic shot. We had seen this same scenario so many times before. Phil’s heroics on a Saturday are all for naught when a risky decision ruins his quest for championship. At Augusta, however, Phil’s guts worked for the best.
It’s difficult to tell how this will affect Phil’s career. At 39-years-old, many people thought he was on his way out. He plays rarely, his wife Amy was diagnosed with breast cancer and his life has been rightly more fixated on family than golf, and through his first few starts on the PGA Tour this season, high results were underwhelming.
But as he embraced Amy after the victory, we saw a new Phil: a Phil that finally capitalized on his talent, and a Phil that has become the most likable guy on tour.
In years past, Phil has been an easy guy to hate. He encouraged loud crowds – something the traditional golfers saw as boorish. He made stupid decisions that canceled out his amazing talent. He was considered egotistical by other players on tour.
Above all, possibly, he was Tiger’s rival. He was the one man who could take down Superman, and he was the only man who could go toe-to-toe with the Man of Steel and not look like a fool. And in this post-Tiger world, maybe people are ready for a new superhero.