Phil Mickelson has long been one of the most beloved PGA golfers. His ‘aw-shucks’ personality combined with skills matched by few and a confidence that there was not a shot he could not execute better than anyone drew millions of fans. Fans who looked the other way upon learning that Mickelson is a gambling addict who has blown through tens of millions in earnings.
Life has gotten in the way this past year and even his most ardent fans are likely to leave his side. Lefty had sold his competitive soul to the recently-formed LIV Golf circuit and the Saudis behind it for the reported price of $200 million,
Mickelson, in an attempt to maintain his popularity, repeatedly said that he respected the opinions of those strongly opposed to his decision to do business with a nation that has a dismal human-rights record, and that he has “the deepest sympathy and the deepest empathy” for the family members of those lost on 9/11, an unspeakable mass murder perpetrated by 19 terrorists, 15 of them from Saudi Arabia.
Mickelson is not the lone prominent American golfer to leave the PGA tour for Liv Golf. Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Reed are major champions too, and big names to loyal fans of the sport. But Mickelson is different. He is recognizable to people who aren’t golf fans, and to some who aren’t even sports fans.
You have to think Mickelson’s legacy will take a huge hit. Yes, his accomplishments are dwarfed by those of Tiger Woods. But there is no one out there that comes close to his own accomplishments. The 45-time tour winner and six-time major champ could go down among the 10 greatest players ever. Can that thinking even take place for someone who will now be viewed as a traitor to the PGA Tour?
The US Open is this weekend. The Open is not a PGA event and is allowing Phil and his fellow Liv players to play in the event. Mickelson will tee off today (Thursday) on his 52nd birthday in pursuit of the one major trophy he has yet to win. This will be his 30th U.S. Open, staged 13 months after he shocked golf and won the PGA Championship. He skipped the Masters and PGA this year while in hiding from his decision, only to reemerge overseas last week in a LIV debut.
Mickelson will face a golf crowd his weekend near Boston that he has never dealt with before. He will be rooted against and will face a barrage of verbal abuse that he has never heard of before. The heckling will center around the question of ‘How can you live with yourself when you take money from an organization that killed 3,000 people on 9/11?’ The same question that was sent to him via mail by families of victims of 9/11. He did not answer it during Monday’s press conference and will not answer it this weekend.