5 Phil Mickelsons are at the Masters this week. It’s been curious to watch
AUGUSTA, Ga. — Phil Mickelson is back at the Masters. And he’s brought four Phil Mickelsons with him.
It’s not totally unexpected. Like some of us, he’s always taken on a few personalities, depending on the occasion. He’s been insightful. He’s been a man of the people. He’s been a golf artist. He’s also measured. That’s new. It’s been some year for Mickelson, remember. The comments about the Saudi Arabian funding of his now-employer, LIV Golf. The exit from the PGA Tour. An exile. The return to golf, with LIV. And last April, a withdrawal from the Masters, where he’s won three times.
But now he’s back. Or they’re here at Augusta National, those Phils. They even overlap some.
And the Lefty quintet has been curious to watch this week.
Phil the insightful
They asked him questions on Tuesday, his first media appearance of the week, and his Augusta National observations were thoughtful.
What does he think of a wet ANGC? (It’s rained here some, and it’s expected to rain more.)
“It plays so different when it’s wet. The rye grass, when it’s wet, the ball will skip. It will keep its backspin. But when it’s dry and sticky, it grabs, it’s into the grain, and you really can’t chip. You have to putt it from off the green.
“This week, I’ll be chipping a lot. I chipped a lot last week and trying to get that area of my game sharp.”
What does he think of 13, which now stretches to 545 yards, after an addition of 35?
“It’s tough because it’s hard to get past the corner to have a shot at the green and not be blocked out by the trees. For me anyways. And we played the front of the tee box today.
“I think in perfect conditions, it’s probably right on. I think with it being wet, it will be hard to go for it and probably not as risk-reward positive to go for it because the greens are soft and you can still chip it close and it’s not really worth the risk.
“But conversely you can come into that green with a longer club and stop it. I don’t know if I’m long enough to come around the corner and have a clear shot. I tried it today, but I have to hit such a big slice. Rather than hit a low-rounded cut, I might have to rip one and get it past the corner.
“I don’t know if it’s really worth the risk for me. I’m a decent wedge player, and I may just try to make a birdie that way.”
They started asking other questions.
Phil the measured
This is most curious, especially when you compare it to the rest.
Then again, we shouldn’t be surprised. He knew the LIV questions were coming. Then again, he’s Phil. So it was all … strange.
And as boring as a layup out of the pine straw.
What’s it like to be back at Augusta National?
“It’s great. It’s fun to be back. Everyone has been wonderful.”
Did he expect a different reception?
“No. Everybody here is so classy. Gosh, it’s fun to be here.”
Did he agree with Cam Smith, a fellow LIV golfer who said Monday that this would be an important week for LIV?
“I thought he did a great job in his press conference. I really enjoy being around him. I don’t know if that’s the case or not. I thought he said some really great things, though. He’s probably right. It would be nice to validate the amount of talent that is over there on LIV, and I think a lot of guys are playing really well heading in. So I think it will be fun to watch.”
Thoughts on Fred Couples, who’s had not-so-kind words for him over the past year?
“Yeah. Fred and I are longtime friends and we’ve had a lot of great experiences in the game of golf. I think the world of him, and I hope we have a chance to have more great experiences with him as well.”
At Tuesday night’s Champions Dinner, would he have any message should he talk to anyone with, we’ll say, a non-LIV lean?
“No. I think we all are — we’ve had friendships, relationships for a long time. I don’t see it being an issue. I really don’t.
“I think that — I think it’s going to be a fun night to celebrate Scottie’s win [Scottie Scheffler] and welcome him to a club that is truly unique and special and very — an honor to be a part of.”
Most curious. But yet …
Phil, the man of the people
Since he’s here, his people are too. They are most definitely not bashful. He walks. They talk. A sampling from those watching him putt on the practice green near the first tee:
“Phil! Phil! You look great!” one screams.
“Go get ’em, stallion,” shouts someone else.
“How much weight you lose?” yells another patron. (At an earlier LIV event, he said he’s down to his college playing weight, but did not give a number.)
To most, he tipped his cap and smiled.
The Phil we’ll never know
Is this all who he really is when they turn off the lights here? Yes, we may never know for sure.
Does he have nothing more to say to Couples? Does he have nothing to add to the LIV prospects this week? Of course, if he truly doesn’t, and he’s taking the high road, Godspeed.
There are takes there, though. Go over to his Twitter account, pre-LIV, and, recently, mid-LIV, too. It’s not as if his thoughts on Augusta National were dry, either. They were earnest.
And there’s this to chew on, too: Let’s go back to those interactions on the practice green. When he walked away, Lefty walked toward the outdoor table area nearby, walked over a rope and walked through those eating and walked to the clubhouse. A walk-like-you-own-the-place move.
“What a stud,” a nearby patron said.
“He just walked over the rope.”
Phil the golf artist
He’s playing golf on Thursday and Friday, and if all goes according to plan for the six-time major winner, he’ll play the weekend too.
He looked fine Tuesday. Practice rounds tell you only so much, but the prep has at least been thorough — late Tuesday afternoon, his caddie and brother, Tim, walked alone out to the 13th green to take some notes.
Then there’s the form.
He’s played 10 LIV events where an individual leaderboard has been kept. His finishes, out of 48 players: 37th, 17th, eighth, 40th, 35th, 42nd, 34th, 41st, 32nd and 27th. Then again, no one saw the 2021 PGA Championship coming either. That was curious, too.
We’ll learn about the 2023 Masters starting at 12:24 p.m. Thursday.
That’s when Tom Hoge, Si Woo Kim and the Mickelson quintet tee off No. 1.