‘You want Phil stories?’: Tales of money games, short-game clinics and strategic 25-foot gimmes told by his peers

July 13, 2018

In his two-plus decades on Tour, Phil Mickelson has charmed, cajoled and steamrolled his way into the lives of loads of other golf professionals, especially the young ones. It’s almost certain that no one has befriended ’em (and busted ’em) like Phil.


“This year, I played all four rounds at the Waste Management with Phil, and it was incredible. I feel like I got the full Phil experience. But the coolest moment I’ve had with him was when I was on the Web.com Tour. I played a pickup round with Phil and Charley Hoffman at The Grand, my home course in San Diego, and [laughs] there’s so much banter between those guys. This was sort of my introduction into what the top dogs do. So we’re on the second hole, and I think Charley was already up on him. You know, they always gamble a certain amount of money. Phil’s about to tee off, and he’s pretending to struggle. He was like, ‘Oh, gosh, it’s so hard to swing.’ I was like, what’s going on? And Phil goes, ‘Here Charley, you mind holding onto this?’ And he pulls this wad of cash out of his back pocket! The whole day, I was sitting in the cart, just lookin’ around, like, ‘I’m not gonna say anything here; I’m just gonna let these guys battle it out.’ And it was so much fun. Phil showed how competitive and fun he can make golf.”


“I’ve had a couple of interactions with Phil, but the one time I really talked to him was at Oakmont in 2016, right after the St. Jude, where he hit this shot on No. 17. He was right up against a tree, and he hit a big, slingin’ hook around the tree to about six feet. I walked up to him at Oakmont and was like, ‘Dude, that was the greatest shot I think I’ve ever seen in my life.’And he was like, ‘You liked that? You liked that?’ I was like, ‘Yeah!'”


“You want Phil stories? I wouldn’t even know where to start [laughs]. There’s only so many guys on Tour that I can just look at and I’ll start laughing, and Phil is right there near the top. I consider him a really good friend, so I’ll give you the Cliff Notes on the story that sticks out in my mind. It’s 2015, we were paired at the Presidents Cup, all of the matches, and we didn’t lose. We fed off each other all week. It just so happened that that week was when my youngest daughter, Abby Jane, started to kind of realize, ‘Dad’s not home. Where is he?’ But she saw me on TV, and saw that I was playing not with Phil Mickelson but with Daddy’s friend. And that’s the only way it is: ‘That’s Daddy’s friend, Phil.’ Fast forward. Even though Phil has probably been around Abby Jane twice in her life, they now send videos to each other. He’ll send one making fun of me or encouraging her to cheer for me. She sent him one congratulating him on his win in Mexico this year. Everybody knows Phil’s a prankster, but he’s also a genuinely great guy. He’s a dad. He gets it. It’s all of 15, 20 seconds of his time, but sending a video occasionally to my daughter is really special. It’s something most people wouldn’t know, but that’s the Phil Mickelson I’m always gonna remember.”

(Executive Director, Sports Marketing & Sponsorships at KPMG)

“Earlier this year, we were hosting a client golf outing with Phil at Congressional. I mentioned to him that one of the execs, a CFO and a big Phil fan, had to decline and was really disappointed. Phil suggested he just give the guy a call. I was able to get him on the phone as we came off the course, and Phil spoke with him for about 15 minutes. They chatted as if they were longtime friends, talking about Phil’s strategy for the upcoming Tour events and where the exec liked to play golf. Later that week we learned the CFO was ‘flying high after the call,’ and that KPMG had won an important piece of his business. Our team was thrilled, and credited Phil with helping to close the deal.”


“I’ve never been paired with Phil. I’ve never played with Phil. But he’s always been a great guy to me. Real nice. One of the first interactions I ever had with him, I was sitting down to lunch at Silverado Resort in Napa, the first tournament of the year. And he comes in and says, ‘Hey, mind if I sit with you?’ Yeah, of course, you know? So we’re talking, and he’s talking about chipping, and he says, ‘It’s mind-boggling how many guys out here don’t know how to chip.’ [Laughs] And I’m sitting there thinking, like, Oh boy. You know, he made me feel guilty! Like, nobody can chip compared to you, you know? So he’s like, ‘It’s unbelievable, but when you’re chipping and you’re trying to hit it high, you gotta put it on the front foot. You’re trying to hit it low, you put it on the back foot…’ It was quite funny, just him talking about how many guys put the ball in the middle of their stance and struggle chipping. In my opinion, he’s the best short-game artist of all time, so I definitely took notes. No hesitation. It went into play right away, that week.”

(Teacher, short-game guru)

“Walking to dinner with Phil one evening in Scotland, a group of gentlemen came toward us, and one of them shouted, ‘Hey Phil, remember me? I’m…’ — let’s just call him Charlie Golfer. ‘We shook hands the last time the Open Championship was here.’ To which Phil, who has shaken hands with a trillion golfers, responded, ‘You know, Charlie, I’ve thought of you every day since we met. In fact, just yesterday I was wondering about how you, your wife and your family have been doing.’ Charlie Golfer, completely overwhelmed, was speech-less for several seconds. He then enthusiastically related that his family was doing great, spun around and left with his chest puffed out, telling his friends, ‘See? I told you he was the nicest guy ever. And he’s got a helluva memory!'”


“The Ping-Pong stories everybody’s heard? All pretty much true. He’s really good, and really competitive. But my favorite Phil story was probably last year in Boston. I was playing with Phil and Ian Poulter, and none of us were hitting it really good, but we were all getting it up and down a good bit. Ian and Phil missed a couple of greens in the same spot, and both got ’em down with unbelievable shots. We’re walking up to 18 and I said to Ian, while Phil was walking a little ahead of us, ‘I don’t know, I might take you over Phil in a short game, you know?’ He kind of laughs and goes, ‘I don’t know about that.’ We all missed the 18th green and had similar flop shots. I hit mine in the bunker. Poulter hit his about 15 feet past. Phil hit the famous Phil flop — lands on an upslope, spins up the hill, trickles down to, like, six or eight inches. Poulter winks at me and goes, ‘He’s still got me.’ And I went, ‘Yeah, he’s got everybody.'”

(President and CEO of Callaway Golf)

“Working at Callaway allowed me to get to know two icons of the game, Arnold Palmer and Phil Mickelson. Phil has what Arnold had, a certain swagger, plus a twinkle in the eye. But the biggest thing is how much Phil loves golf. Arnold was the same way. Phil’s house is not far from the Callaway headquarters in Carlsbad, so we see him pretty often. Phil plays…a lot. He’ll play with anyone who loves the game like he does. He’ll play with our son, a high school senior, two or three times a year. One time David lost and Phil said to him, ‘Don’t worry, you can pay me when you turn pro.’ One Friday at the Farmers Insurance Open, the weather was just horrible. Cold, blowy, sideways rain. Phil made a mess of his last hole on Friday and missed the cut. Saturday’s weather was no better. I thought, Well, at least he can have a day off, be inside, warm and dry. The next thing I heard was that Phil and Keegan Bradley were playing on that Saturday at Phil’s home course, The Bridges, in a cold rain. As I heard it, Phil took him. He seems to come out on top a lot. But the point really is that Phil has to play. Golf is in Phil’s blood.”


“Phil’s style — the way it comes through on TV, with the fans, is the way he comes through with his friends, too. We were playing a practice round at the Presidents Cup, a team match to get ready for the format. On a par 3, I had hit it to about 25 feet, and Phil hit it to about 35 feet. Phil made his putt, which put the pressure on me. And he was chattering, you know, like he always does. I made the putt on top of him, and he said, ‘You know that ruined a great story, right?’ I thought I had created a greater story by making my putt, but he didn’t see it that way. The best way to describe Phil is forgetful. And I mean that in the most respectful way. The shots he hits or the decisions he’s made on the course that aren’t so great, he forgets. And it’s a great quality to have. He gets knocked down and gets right back up again, I don’t know how many times. You can’t even count — and it’s made him a champion.”

Phil Mickelson stories


“I have a Phil story from Muirfield Village, at the 2013 Presidents Cup. We were doing really well, playing alternate shot, and we were dormie, 6 up with whatever left to play. And I had about a 5-foot putt on 13 to win the match — and it 360ed the hole. Lipped out. I got up on the next hole, it’s my tee and just a 3-iron, but I was rattled — I hit this 3-iron 100 yards right. So they win that hole. And then we get to the next hole, a par 5, and we get up there and I’ve got 5 feet for birdie; Graham DeLaet has about 25 feet for his birdie. So all Graham has to do is miss his putt and we win the match. And Phil looks over at Graham and goes, ‘Pick it up, it’s good.’ And I looked over at Phil and I’m like, Are you kidding me? Now, if I miss the putt, we lose the hole. So I was pissed. But then, sure enough, I made the putt, we won the match. Now it’s funny — but if I’d missed the putt it wouldn’t have been funny. Now he says he knew I was rattled and he wanted me to make that putt to win the match. So, typical Phil, trying to teach lessons. But it was wild. I mean, a 25-footer!”


“I can’t remember the first time I met Phil. [Laughs] I’m getting old! But I’ve played a lot of golf with him over the years. Early on, we never really got on that well. We were competitors. I had a huge respect for him, but you were inspired to beat guys like Phil. But as years went by we mellowed a bit. So when the Ryder Cup came round in 2006, I knew Phil and his wife Amy pretty well. That was a difficult Ryder Cup for me. Six weeks earlier, Heather, my wife, had died from breast cancer. But it was her wish that I play if offered a pick by Captain Woosnam. Lee Westwood and I were the last match out on Friday morning, and who do we draw to compete against but Chris DeMarco and Phil Mickelson. So we’re getting onto the first tee, and Phil and Chris come over and give me hugs. It was a very emotional moment, as was the whole week. There will never be a tougher hole for me to play, but somehow I striped my first drive. As things transpired, Europe played very well that year, and we won. The ritual at the opening and closing ceremonies is for two players — a Euro and an American — to enter side by side, with their wives or partners to the outside to them. Obviously, that week I didn’t have a partner. But as it happened, I was paired with Phil for the closing ceremony, and as we walked off the stage, Amy, bless her, stepped between us and grabbed my hand. It was one of the most touching things anyone has ever done for me. Their support was huge. A few years later, Phil called me soon after Amy herself was diagnosed with breast cancer. You know Phil — he likes to know everything about everything. So he asked me loads of questions. Everything he was about to go through I’d already been through, so I tried to help him and Amy any way I could. I don’t know if I did help, but it was nice to know I could give a little back to them. It’s been great to see Amy come through this whole thing. A happy ending, that one. Of course, Phil being Phil, after the Euros lost at Hazeltine ten years later, he comes up to me in his Team USA onesie whilst I was having a drink with Davis Love, and he gets on me like you wouldn’t believe, just giving me all kinds of guff. Brutal but brilliant! But that’s who Phil is: a character, a competitor — a natural-born winner.”