How Phil Mickelson could use the Masters to begin mending his public image

A Masters PhilCast? Surely there'd be an audience for it.

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The last time Phil Mickelson missed a Masters, Bernhard Langer was the defending champion, Bill Clinton was in the Oval Office and the top spot in the Billboard 100 was occupied by Montell Jordan’s indelible “This Is How We Do It.”

So, yeah, it’s been a while.

But the 2022 Masters will indeed be just that: Lefty-less, for the first time since 1994. On Monday, Augusta National confirmed that Mickelson — who is on a PGA Tour sabbatical following his incendiary remarks about the forthcoming Saudi-funded golf league — will be sitting out this year’s edition.

Here’s a thought: What if Mickelson could still make his presence felt at this Masters?

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Not as a player. As an analyst.

Here’s the pitch: a Masters PhilCast, a distinct feed from CBS’s in which Mickelson would offer his commentary for a couple of hours each round. We’d suggest a complimentary feed to CBS’s — a la ESPN’s highly entertaining Monday Night Football ManningCast — but with the heat surrounding Phil, there’s no chance that CBS and/or Augusta National would bite.

So PhilCast would need to be carried by another network or streaming service. That’s admittedly limiting in that viewers would see only Phil and not the telecast, but there’d still be a considerable second-screen audience for his musings, especially in the early rounds. Simply mute the CBS broadcast and listen to Mickelson on your phone or laptop.

Would Mickelson partake? We don’t know his mental and emotional state, but one thing is clear: He has bridges to mend, and beginning that process in a controlled environment would be a sensible first step. At the top of his first appearance, Mickelson could address the controversy, express his regret, apologize to his fans and sponsors. Rehabilitating his public image won’t be easy but the mea culpa needs to start somewhere.   

Then Mickelson could do what he’s already proven he excels at: provide insightful and lively analysis. If you saw and heard Mickelson’s CBS booth appearance at the 2020 PGA Championship, you know he has the chops. Over 90 minutes at Harding Park, he entertained the audience with a refreshing mix of observations, quips and insidery nuggets. He dissected leader Haotong Li’s swing, explained why Harding’s 6th fairway is so difficult to hit and revealed that Li’s caddie loops at Michael Jordan’s club in South Florida.

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Think of the Augusta stories Phil could share — all those Champions Dinners and Butler Cabin visits — and the volumes of course knowledge he could dispense from his 29 Masters appearances. Mickelson might know those greens better than he does his own backyard. Here was his take on the putting surfaces at his pre-tournament presser in 2021: “These greens are softer than what we play week in and week out. They are slightly faster, but nothing scary like they used to be. Quite honestly, they have been softer the last five years than anything we play on Tour other than Pebble. The fear factor has not been there, and I don’t anticipate them going back to the way we expect.”

Good stuff, right? Not many players are equipped to offer that level of Augusta insight — and of those who are, few are inclined to speak so openly.

Mickelson flashed another side of his commentary repertoire when he helped call the Brooks-Bryson Match, in Las Vegas, last year. With little banter between the protagonists, it was left to Phil (and wingman Charles Barkley) to keep things interesting. Early in the match, Mickelson asked DeChambeau, who was wearing an earpiece, “Do you feel that hitting bombs like that makes you feel attractive?”

“Oh very, it’s hot,” DeChambeau said.

To which Phil replied, “Yeah, same, I totally get it.”

Phil’s cheekiness would serve as another differentiator for PhilCast. When calling the Masters, the CBS crew is under strict orders to play it straight. (Ask Gary McCord.) On his own feed, Mickelson would be unshackled from the green-coated censors.

Telecast cuts to the 5th hole:

Nick Faldo on CBS: “The cameras just don’t adequately capture all the movement in this green, Jim.”

PhilCast: “Guys, I haven’t seen humps like that since the last time I looked down at my calves.

Which feed are you listening to?

alan bastable

Alan Bastable

Golf.com Editor

As GOLF.com’s executive editor, Bastable is responsible for the editorial direction and voice of one of the game’s most respected and highly trafficked news and service sites. He wears many hats — editing, writing, ideating, developing, daydreaming of one day breaking 80 — and feels privileged to work with such an insanely talented and hardworking group of writers, editors and producers. Before grabbing the reins at GOLF.com, he was the features editor at GOLF Magazine. A graduate of the University of Richmond and the Columbia School of Journalism, he lives in New Jersey with his wife and foursome of kids.