‘I know things others don’t’: Cryptic Phil Mickelson presser ends odd PGA week

Phil Mickelson's weird week ended with a cryptic presser on Sunday.

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Watching Phil Mickelson and Justin Thomas walk up the 18th fairway on Sunday at Oak Hill, it was easy to forget this week represented a title defense for both of them.

With the first of the afternoon sun creeping into the sky overhead, Mickelson and Thomas shuffled quickly up the 18th early Sunday afternoon. Thomas, the 2022 PGA Champion, went first, putting out for par. Then came Phil.

The last time Mickelson found himself on the 72nd green at this major championship, he was doing so as the unlikeliest champion in recent memory; a 50-year-old stunner at Kiawah Island in 2021. On Sunday there would be no such magic. He putted out for birdie to finish in a tie for 60th, leaving the course some two hours before the leaders even arrived.

As he walked off the 72nd green, he passed an old friend, longtime caddie Bones Mackay (now Thomas’ looper). Back in the day, Mackay and Mickelson won the second of his six majors at this tournament just a few hours south at Baltusrol. But if there was an inkling of nostalgia, Mickelson sure didn’t show it. He offered Mackay a quick fist bump and headed off to the scorer’s area. When asked about their day together a few minutes later, Phil demurred.

“Well, he didn’t play,” Mickelson said coyly.

Asked again, he offered just three words.

“It was fine.”

That, it turned out, was only the beginning of the weirdness. Mickelson would speak to a scrum of reporters for 10 minutes following his round on Sunday, answering a blitz of questions about the state of the golf world. But his answers would only serve to reinforce the cryptic tone that has been his preferred voice on Twitter and beyond over these last several months.

Mickelson addressed a variety of topics over the course of his availability, but it was a question about Twitter itself that would provide the most interesting response of the session.

“I guess it’s because I know some things that others don’t,” he said of his recent self-professed “chippiness.”

“I just want to make sure that they’re held accountable.”

As for who he’d like to see held accountable, Mickelson had a few targets. The first was predictable — the PGA Tour — though Mickelson’s warning neglected to offer much by way of specifics.

“I don’t want to get into specific details,” he said. “I know a lot of stuff that will come out later, and that I am appreciative that they’re being held accountable.”

Then Mickelson’s attention turned to the PGA of America, whose captains will soon be responsible for determining Ryder Cup rosters.

“I don’t see the benefit of the Ryder Cup being changed from what it historically has been — which is U.S. versus Europe. I mean, originally it was Great Britain and Ireland and now it’s Europe,” Phil said, parroting a point he has shared on Twitter involving golf’s governing bodies and LIV. “I mean I don’t see the benefit of changing that. I don’t see how it’s any concern of the PGA of America what people do for a living.”

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Mickelson’s current day job means he’s close to the pulse of LIV. And as luck would have it, two of the league’s biggest-name players (Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka) entered Sunday at the PGA with a legitimate chance of winning. Phil shared little about either player — he said both were “playing good” in the lead-up to this week — but did offer a defense of the league writ large.

“It’s provided 48 professional opportunities, which is incredible, but I’m not thinking about now,” he said. “I’m thinking three to five years out, where we’ll be. We’re only a year in. To me, it’s still just starting. Two more years, that’s when you need to look back and say, okay, where we want to be?”

LIV aside, it’s fair to wonder where Mickelson will be in two years, at which time he’ll be turning 55. Above all, PGA week was a reminder of the uncertainty that now surrounds his golfing future. Just two years ago, he left golf’s second major on top of the world, his sixth major championship cementing his legacy as one of the game’s all-time great players. But the 700 days since then haven’t been as kind.

The next time most of the golf world will see Phil will be at next month’s U.S. Open, where he’ll arrive with the opportunity to complete the career grand slam. It’s possible Mickelson will arrive in Los Angeles with all the answers — like he did in a shocking runner-up finish in April at Augusta National.

But those wouldn’t be found this week at the PGA Championship. Either on the course or off of it.

James Colgan

Golf.com Editor

James Colgan is a news and features editor at GOLF, writing stories for the website and magazine. He manages the Hot Mic, GOLF’s media vertical, and utilizes his on-camera experience across the brand’s platforms. Prior to joining GOLF, James graduated from Syracuse University, during which time he was a caddie scholarship recipient (and astute looper) on Long Island, where he is from. He can be reached at james.colgan@golf.com.