I had to laugh after reading a recent article asking how/if Phil Mickelson can make a successful return to the game from his latest self-induced gaffe over the proposed new Golf Super League and Saudi Arabia’s involvement in said circuit.
Mickelson will have no problem whatsoever. Recent history proves that only too well.
Golf fans are very forgiving.
Mickelson’s rap sheet is pretty detailed for a guy who passes himself off as a fun-loving, man of the people, sign every autograph sports star.
Remember, this is the guy who trashed Tom Watson in public at the 2014 Ryder Cup. A conversation Mickelson should have had the guts to hold with Watson in private, face to face, was played out in front of the world’s media. And remember, Watson is revered in Scotland for his love of the Home of Golf. Mickelson’s actions were unforgivable for many, me included, yet he’s still a draw when he plays in the Open Championship.
The Rules of Golf? Mickelson paid scant regard for the sacred codes that govern the game when he stopped a putt from rolling off a green during the 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills. The left-hander should have been tossed out of the tournament for a serious breach of the rules. It didn’t seem to affect his association with many of his fans.
The USGA probably wish they had disqualified him from that U.S. Open after Mickelson last year launched a broadside at the governing body for limiting the length of driver shafts.
How do you spell “petulant?"
Now the six-time major winner is taking time away from the game to sit on the naughty step and reflect over his comments re: the PGA Tour and proposed Saudi golf league. Sponsors have bailed on him, and all and sundry are queuing up to give him a good kicking – yes, me included. How do you spell “schadenfreude?”
Rest assured part of his time away will be working on his comeback and how he wins fans back. His PR and management team are probably working on his re-emergence as I type.
There are plenty of examples of sports stars who have been welcomed back into the fold with open arms after seemingly falling from grace. Here are two from our game.
Sergio Garcia has a pretty good rap sheet of his own that includes kicking a shoe and nearly hitting an official, spitting into a hole at Doral and wilfully wrecking a green in Saudi Arabia. It doesn’t seem to have hurt his popularity.
And for definitive proof golf fans are extremely forgiving, look no further than Mickelson’s arch-nemesis throughout his career: Tiger Woods.
After Woods’ private life became public knowledge in 2009, the late Dan Jenkins wrote Woods off in an excoriating piece on Golf Digest’s website. Jenkins said:
“Never in my knowledge of history has any famous personality – in sports, show biz, or politics – ever fallen so far so fast. Tiger Woods is graveyard dead, as the Southern expression goes.
“Life as Tiger has known it is over. His reputation is ruined, possibly forever. His name that once meant mastery over competitive golf now invokes cringes, giggles and all the Internet jokes you want to pass along.
“Sure, he can come back and even win again, if he man's up, but if he does he will only be a hero to the ‘you-da-man’ and ‘get-in-the-hole’ crowd. And I can't imagine him coming back as a ‘humbled man.’ That wouldn't be the owner of a yacht insultingly named Privacy, the guy the press has still slobbered over for these past 12 years.”
Jenkins didn’t get much wrong during his illustrious career, but he got the above wrong. Not only did Woods come back to win, including the 2019 Masters, he’s as popular as ever. And many members of the press are still slobbering over him.
No way back for Phil? Think again.
#JustSaying: “It would come as no surprise to any reporter that Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer were more important to me than Tiger Woods. The game of golf can speak for itself.” Dan Jenkins, from His Ownself