Chronicle: Mickelson may not have the time he needs to recover

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — Phil Mickelson was one of the loudest voices in the Ryder Cup task force that reshaped the American plan and created so much continuity it was easy to predict the next captain.

Zach Johnson, a four-time Ryder Cup player and vice-captain of the previous two teams, is the pick for the 2023 matches in Italy.

It was easy.

The next pick for Bethpage Black in 2025 should have been just as predictable, except now that’s not the case.

All signs had pointed to Mickelson.

Never mind that Mickelson is a six-time major champion who has been on every Ryder Cup team since 1995, before Collin Morikawa was even born. New York loves Mickelson despite — or perhaps because of — his five close calls at the majors, including two at Bethpage.

But now?

Lovable Lefty has a whole different reputation.

Becoming golf’s oldest major champion at 50 by winning the PGA Championship now seems a lot longer than it did nine months ago. Fresh in mind are his comments to longtime golf writer Alan Shipnuck, who is writing an unauthorized biography on Mickelson.

While flirting with a rival league funded by Saudi Arabia, Mickelson called the Saudis a “scary (expletive) mother to get involved with”.

“We know they killed (Washington Post reporter Jamal) Khashoggi and they have a horrible human rights record,” Mickelson said. “They execute people there because they are gay. Knowing all of this, why would I even consider it? Because it’s a unique opportunity to reshape how the PGA Tour works.

He also said he doesn’t care if the rival league succeeds as long as it provides leverage against the “dictatorship” of commissioner Jay Monahan and the PGA Tour.

If that wasn’t enough, Mickelson said he and three other top players paid lawyers to draft the rival league’s operating agreement.

Four of his corporate partners – KPMG, American Express, Amstel Light and Workday – no longer want to work with him. Callaway Golf said it was suspending the relationship.

As for the Ryder Cup?

Johnson was prepared for the subject when he was introduced as captain on Monday. All four times he was asked about Mickelson as a vice-captain, or the Saudi league threat Mickelson promoted, Johnson offered a vague answer about the unknowns and hypotheticals.

Asked about Mickelson several times in a Sky Sports interview, Johnson offered little more than saying without elaboration, “Phil Mickelson is a friend of mine.”

The last anyone heard of Mickelson was a 500-word statement a week ago that only made him sound more self-centered. The statement contained the words “apologize” once and “sorry” twice. He never mentioned Monahan or the PGA Tour. He said his only motivation was for the good of the game and the players, even if that meant being the scapegoat.

It was a downfall, okay.

Mickelson mentioned the pressure and stress of the past 10 years and said he “desperately” needed time. And that’s the problem as he tries to recover from the mess he made.

Time is what Mickelson doesn’t have.

Mickelson and Tiger Woods’ quick and stunning falls are nothing alike except for the damage done to their public image. Woods sabotaged his personal life. Mickelson tried to sabotage the tour that made him rich and famous.

Woods was 33 and at the top of his game when he was exposed for having had multiple extramarital affairs in late 2009. Four years later, he was voted PGA Tour Player of the Year for the 11th time. Then, after four back surgeries that made him fear he might never play golf again, he won the 2019 Masters for his 15th major title.

It was as much a return as a redemption. Woods is more popular than ever. Once revered among his peers, he is now adored by them.

Mickelson is 51 and friends on the ropes are suddenly hard to come by.

While his PGA victory at Kiawah Island last May was historic, Lefty is beyond the twilight of his career. In his 12 PGA Tour starts since then, he’s missed the cut five times and only finished in the top 25 once – a tie for 17th in a limited-field event.

He also has four PGA Tour Champions wins. But while the 50-plus league is more competitive than ever, it’s not the road to recovery.

Time can heal wounds. It is unclear how deep these go and if more will follow.

Shipnuck’s book is slated for release in May. Another book is slated for the fall by famed sports player Billy Walters, with whom Mickelson was linked in an episode of insider trading. It ended with Mickelson, a relief defendant, repaying the government the million dollars he had won in the stock-purchase deal and Walters going to jail.

The next Ryder Cup in Italy is 19 months away. Bethpage Black is two years down the line, and given that Woods will now be playing a limited schedule at best, he makes the most sense as Captain America in 2025.

What is Mickelson’s place?

It depends on how quickly he can recover, if at all.


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