Watching Phil Mickelson play live for the first time makes for a lasting experience.
This is true even when Lefty misses the cut as our Michael C. Fricke reports from Scottsdale.
Following Phil as he slogged through the first two rounds of the FBR Open was like watching recent economic reports; you kept waiting for the turnaround but it just didn’t materialize. The few tidbits of positive economic news we receive are far outweighed by the negative. The same sporadic highs followed by more frequent downs were the norm for Phil on Thursday and Friday.
This was the first time I had the opportunity to see Phil play live. Obviously I would have preferred to witness a stronger outing, but I was not completely disappointed. The excitement he generated was palpable. That by itself was enough for me. And there were shots to cheer about, just not enough.
He manufactured some magical shots; they were just badly outnumbered by the indifferent. He managed to hit some quality drives; though more often than not he drove himself out of position and onto defense. His short game produced some magic; but that was in the form of a disappearing act. While it may have saved him on occasion, it more often deserted him.
Through this listless performance Phil did manage some humor. On Friday, at the par 5 thirteenth, he planted his drive into a waste area. His second caromed off a tree limb and came to rest in the right rough, some fifty yards from the pin. As he inspected his lie prior to his third stroke an optimistic spectator yelled “I’ve already put you down for a 4 on this hole Phil”. In reply, Phil deadpanned “You must not have watched me yesterday.” True to form he ended up chunking his pitch into the greenside bunker and took 5. Like everything else positive, the humorous moments were swallowed up by the depressing.
Still, for me personally the experience was memorable. To hear the crowds urge him on, even implore him to succeed was a testimony to his popularity. At times it seemed the crowd was collectively trying to will the ball into the hole (or the fairway). And make no mistake about it, Phil was the draw. Only the Villegas/Weir/Ogilvy threesome drew similar galleries, and then only after Phil had completed his second round.
Now it’s time for Phil, and for all of us who follow his every shot, to look towards his next tournament with that familiar optimism and anticipation. I for one am ready to hold a little breath every time he begins his backswing; it’s what makes watching Phil a thrill ride.