The comedy of life in the public eye is that every achievement is public information. The tragedy? So is every mistake.
Phil Mickelson knows this complex well. For nearly a quarter-century, he has lived every moment of his professional life in the public eye. While that career has brought its fair share of massive successes — six major championships and countless PGA Tour victories form a resume entrenched not only in the Hall of Fame, but also worth a seat at the table of the game’s all-time greats — it’s also brought its fair share of struggles.
To date, Mickelson remains tortured by his history at the U.S. Open, where he has secured a record six (6!) runner-up finishes, and which remains the only piece missing from his grand slam puzzle some two decades later. Perhaps equally notable is how he’s managed to escape grabbing a historic victory at the national championship. At Winged Foot in 2006, Mickelson famously bungled the 72nd hole, squandering a one-stroke lead (and the tournament) to Geoff Ogilvy with an 18th hole double-bogey.
All of that is to say nothing of the decade Mickelson spent as the “best player never to win a major,” or of his 18 (!!!) second-and-third-place finishes at major championships.
You get the point. Like every other pro fortunate to play at an elite level for a (really) long time, Phil Mickelson has had triumphs, but he has just as many regrets. On Monday night, the reigning PGA Championship winner took to Twitter to reveal what he sees as the three biggest regrets from his professional career, and interestingly enough, the Ryder Cup took a front seat.
The situation began with Golf Digest’s John Feinstein, who wrote a story defending Mickelson’s case as a captain’s pick for this year’s Ryder Cup team. In the story, Feinstein detailed Lefty’s checkered Ryder Cup career, which includes victories in ’99, ’08 and ’16, but a long history of controversy as well. In particular, Feinstein singled out a pair of incidents a decade apart involving U.S. team captains — Tom Watson and Hal Sutton — in which Mickelson criticized the leadership set forth by the U.S. side.
When the publication’s account shared the story to Twitter, Mickelson joined the fray to offer his thoughts on the story and a peek inside what he views as the most regrettable moments from his lengthy career.
“I appreciate this article John and so you know, I’ve apologized to both Captain Watson and Sutton and deeply regret my actions,” he said. “Both are (as well as hitting moving ball) (sic) the 3 things I regret most in my career.”
The first incident (involving Sutton) came in 2004, when Mickelson lambasted the U.S. captain for a failure to prepare the team for competition.
“It all starts with the captain,” Phil said at the time. “I mean, that’s the guy that has to bring together 12 strong individuals and bring out their best and allow them on a platform to play their best.”
Then, 10 years later, the situation repeated itself over again. This time, Lefty aimed his criticism at 2014 captain Tom Watson, who he felt had done an inadequate job of involving players in the decision-making process.
“Unfortunately, we have strayed from a winning formula in 2008 for the last three Ryder Cups, and we need to consider maybe getting back to that formula that helped us play our best,” he said in a lengthy press conference answer viewed by many as an evisceration of Watson’s kinder-hearted tendencies.
As for his third-biggest regret, that came at a U.S. Open — but not in one of his six runner-up performances. No, Phil’s disappointment stemmed from his (now infamous) backstopping controversy at Shinnecock in 2018, in which he ran to the other side of the green to stop his putt from rolling off the false front, incurring a penalty and narrowly escaping a DQ.
Ultimately, Phil leaves with the last laugh. He’s one of the greatest golfers ever and has earned untold millions from more than two decades as one of the most popular players in the world. And best of all — after a win at the PGA Championship in May, he’s vaulted himself firmly into consideration to be part of one final Ryder Cup win (perhaps atoning for his sins in the process). Will that be enough to leave him regret-free after a lengthy career in the public eye? Probably not. But hey, it’s worth a shot, right?