A Hole In The Life Of A Very Different Phil Mickelson – Inside The Ropes With Lefty

We follow a very different Phil Mickelson to the one who won The Open 10 years ago today

Phil Mickelson
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Ten years ago today Phil Mickelson won The Open at the 20th time of asking. Comfortably his worst Major, in terms of top 10s anyway, he might easily now be a three-time champion of the Claret Jug. 

At Muirfield he played maybe one of his greatest rounds and definitely one of his greatest finishes. In his last six holes he added four birdies to very quickly turn a shoot-out with Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood, Henrik Stenson and Adam Scott into a three-shot victory.

Just two years ago he became the oldest Major champion in the history of the game, aged 50 years and 11 months at the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island. Three months ago he was second at Augusta.

Today he teed off with Nick Taylor and Adam Schenk who have three PGA Tour wins between them, all Taylor’s. The previous three groups contained the star names where Mickelson would ordinarily sit but, as we all know, times and things have changed and, for Mickelson, almost out of sight.

On the upside this looked more like Mickelson. On Thursday we were treated to a clingy, grey round-neck top that stood out as much for the single logo as much as it did for how poorly it fitted. Gone is Workday and KPMG, in its place the HyFlyers emblem.

This time around the six-time Major winner was all in black and things looked more normal. These days his clothes are from Travis Mathew, his shoes by Cuater, and his belt, trademark Mickelson, appeared to be worth more than the whole ensemble put together.

There is the the beginning of a moustache which might be a new look or just a bit of laziness and his weight remains a shadow of his former self. At Augusta he turned up 25 pounds lighter and not much of that appears to have gone back on. 

The bag, which made further mention of the HyFlyers, as well as Grayhawk GC, was plonked down on the opposite side of the tee and Mickelson enjoyed some final few swings ahead of his 98th round at The Open.

The one familiar aspect of all things Mickelson remains the Arnold Palmer-like thumbs up which appeared immediately as he arrived on the 1st tee. When his name was announced the welcome was warm, noticeably louder than many of the previous groups, and the shot.. different.

Different in that he chose to hit an iron which nobody within the past hour had done and different in that it was so poorly hit it left him with further to go with his second shot in. Almost by osmosis it then brought about two very quick hooks by Taylor and Schenk and the threeball were away to cheers of ‘looking good, Phil’ and ‘do it for the lefties’.

Cue more thumbs up.

To say Mickelson is a man of the people might be pushing it but, rest assured, he will spend a lot of time in among them. For his second shot of the day he required some line-of-sight relief and, after moving the crowds this way and that, this 53-year-old was dropping a ball from knee height which still remains an odd sight. Equally as strange was the sight of Mickelson using a Ping driver to measure the drop.

After the usual pose – club in right hand, visualising what’s coming next – Mickelson smashed a long iron from 237 yards to the throat of the green.

More cap touching, more thumbs up, more thank yous and he was back on his way.  

For once, as has been a feature of his career, there was no happy ending. The third was almost pitch perfect but the six-foot putt stayed above ground.

The driver re-appeared at the 2nd and he smashed it 336 yards down the middle. And then missed the green from 100 yards. Ever the contrarian.

Mark Townsend
Contributing editor

Mark has worked in golf for over 20 years having started off his journalistic life at the Press Association and BBC Sport before moving to Sky Sports where he became their golf editor on skysports.com. He then worked at National Club Golfer and Lady Golfer where he was the deputy editor and he has interviewed many of the leading names in the game, both male and female, ghosted columns for the likes of Robert Rock, Charley Hull and Dame Laura Davies, as well as playing the vast majority of our Top 100 GB&I courses. He loves links golf with a particular love of Royal Dornoch and Kingsbarns. He is now a freelance, also working for the PGA and Robert Rock. Loves tour golf, both men and women and he remains the long-standing owner of an horrific short game. He plays at Moortown with a handicap of 6.