Phil Mickelson says aspiring golfers should emulate this pro

Want to be like Phil? Get ready to work.

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There are no shortcuts on the path to greatness, but there is certainly a roadmap.

Phil Mickelson knows this better than most. Over the span of his quarter-century in golf, he’s seen all manner of failure and success from his peers on the PGA Tour. Lefty knows that no two paths look the same, share the same memories, or even the same emotions.

In fact, if there is a common thread between the most successful players on earth, it’s in their traits. Traits like competitiveness, mental toughness, and work ethic.

On Saturday, Phil was signing autographs after his round at the PGA Tour Champion’s Charles Schwab Cup Championship when he was approached by a fan named Jacob Vanderpas. Vanderpas, who is currently competing on the Outlaw Tour, wanted to know what advice a six-time major champion would give to PGA Tour hopefuls everywhere, himself included.

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“You just gotta work hard,” Phil said. “You can get by in junior golf with talent, but there are too many people who are talented who work hard. It just depends how bad you want it.”

According to Mickelson, success in professional golf has very little to do with talent. Rather, in Mickelson’s eyes, the single-clearest common thread among successful golfers is a commitment to the grind.

There are dozens of great players who share that trait, Mickelson says. But perhaps the best example is one of his fellow competitors at this week’s Champions Tour event: Jim Furyk.

“Jim Furyk is a great example of a guy who in college had a year or two where he really struggled, and he worked hard,” Phil said. “He became a Hall of Fame player and Ryder Cup captain, and he just worked really hard.”

Mickelson’s praise of Furyk is interesting, at least partially because many of the same praises could be made of Lefty himself. Phil has reinvented his game seemingly a dozen times since the beginning of his professional career, most recently at the PGA Championship, where at 50 years old, he became the oldest major winner in golf history.

Phil has consistently bet on himself throughout the course of his career, and much like Furyk, he’s watched as that work has turned into good fortune.

“There’s a lot of guys who had a lot of natural talent, but didn’t put in the work,” he said. “Just how bad do you want it?”

This weekend, Mickelson is hoping for more good luck on the Champions Tour, where he has already enjoyed a bundle of success. But he enters the final round trailing on the leaderboard behind one pesky player … Jim Furyk.

Perhaps aspiring pros won’t be the only ones looking up to him Sunday.

James Colgan Editor

James Colgan is an assistant editor at GOLF, contributing stories for the website and magazine. He writes the Hot Mic, GOLF’s weekly media column, and utilizes his broadcast experience across the brand’s social media and video platforms. A 2019 graduate of Syracuse University, James — and evidently, his golf game — is still defrosting from four years in the snow. Prior to joining GOLF, James was a caddie scholarship recipient (and astute looper) on Long Island, where he is from. He can be reached at