A rite of spring, The Masters, is sneaking up on us. It’s less than three weeks away. It’s about the first time anyone seriously pays attention to golf, though the recently concluded Players Championship might have stolen some of that shine. Still, the entire sports world generally casts a stare at Augusta, which means it was another chance for Phil Mickelson to be a weenie and hide.
You may have already forgotten about Mickelson, which is exactly what he would like. He’s the one who didn’t shy from calling the Saudi government what they are — human rights-oppressing murderer — but then said that was all OK because it wanted to fund a competitor to the PGA Tour that he was being paid to spearhead.
Of course, Mickelson’s quotes landed in the general public like a flightless bird tossed from a gondola, and Mickelson had to issue an apology and then claim the need to take some time to be with his family and essentially “figure things out.”
There isn’t much to figure out. Mickelson said something truly dumb, perhaps even a shade evil, certainly tone-deaf, and egregiously selfish. The idea that he needed to take some time away from golf is just so he wouldn’t have to face any unplanned questions from the greater media at large at whatever tournament he showed up for. He got to issue his apology and throw up his deuces behind a released statement. And that’s where he’s content to remain .
Even at 51, Mickelson can’t say he’s not showing up at Augusta National simply because he has no chance of winning, or competing, and it would be a waste of time. He won the PGA Championship last year at 50, and finished 21st at The Masters last year. He’s won it three times, and just three years ago finished 6-under. For someone as up his own ass as Mickelson notoriously is, you have to believe he still thinks he’s got one more run in him.
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But not badly enough to actually have to face criticism and hard questions in the face. Or maybe it’s his fellow players he doesn’t want to see, some of whom did not hesitate to get their boot in his ass after his comments when most of the world was lining up to do the same. Or maybe it’s PGA Tour officials and sponsors he doesn’t want to see, seeing as how he tried to throw them under the bus. Maybe he just doesn’t know what to wear, given that all his sponsors dropped him like a cigarette when your mom catches you. Do these guys have clothes that don’t have logos on them?
At the bottom of all this, Mickelson might have some decent points about what’s wrong with the PGA Tour for players. It’s next to impossible to feel much sympathy for pro golfers, who have all the cuddliness and warmth of an eel. But they are the stars, and it does feel like there are guys in suits making more money off of them than they need to or should be.
Yeah, Mickelson said something truly stupid. And he has to own that. No matter how long he tries to stay undercover, he’ll have to own it some day. He could at least have some courage of his convictions. When he resurfaced he should say something like, “I said something truly awful, and I will pay for it for a long time, but the issues I’m raising still have merit.” Though with such an awful quote, Mickelson has eroded whatever support he has.
No matter when Mickelson shows up, there’s going to be a ton of microphones and cellphones shoved in his face. He’ll also find that golf fans are probably the most forgiving, given that they’ve been rooting for cardboard cutouts such as it is anyway. It’s not like he’s going to get booed every time he touches the ball. And the golf press isn’t too much more vindictive…unless you’re Black and cheated on your white wife, that is. And that’s only for like a year.
The U.S. Open isn’t too far away. It’s the one jewel Mickelson doesn’t have, having come in second six times, and wants desperately. Is that when he comes up for air? He’s not going to toss away maybe his last chance at a career grand slam because he’s embarrassed, right? Ashamed?
There’s always been doubts about just what kind of mental fortitude Mickelson has. He can’t win unless things are perfect. He seems intent on proving it. You fucked up, dude. Maybe being that rich means you can go into hiding. But is that what a true competitor does?