Lefty winning hearts at OpenHe won their hearts the last time, even though he couldn’t win their tournament. Tiger Woods stood in his way, as he so often does, but that didn’t stop New Yorkers from showing a lot of love for the swashbuckling lefty who kept grinning even as his chances of winning slipped away.
FARMINGDALE, N.Y. (AP) — He won their hearts the last time, even though he couldn’t win their tournament. Tiger Woods stood in his way, as he so often does, but that didn’t stop New Yorkers from showing a lot of love for the swashbuckling lefty who kept grinning even as his chances of winning slipped away.
Seven years later, they’re pulling for Phil Mickelson again. They welcomed him back Wednesday as if he was an old family friend, lining the fairways and crowding around the greens to offer words of encouragement and wish him a happy, belated 39th birthday.
This time, though, there’s more at stake than just a U.S. Open trophy.
You wouldn’t have known it from watching as Mickelson smiled his way around Bethpage Black in a final tuneup for the title he so desperately covets but has yet to win. Seemed just like old times as he flashed a thumbs up to anyone who shouted his name and handed a ball to the cutest kid he could find between each hole.
The crowd knew, though they also knew enough not to bring it up. No reason to intrude on the one spot where he could find some solace, even if this is New York.
They could have yelled words of encouragement for his wife, Amy. But that was already understood, so they yelled for the man himself.
And being New Yorkers, they yelled a lot.
“We love you Phil!”
“Good luck on Sunday!”
Mickelson wasn’t even going to be here, because his wife’s health means more than being a U.S. Open champion, even to a player who may want it more than anyone in the field. He retreated from the golf course when his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer and it wasn’t until two weeks ago that he made the decision to play.
The cancer, though, seems to have been caught early, and Mickelson seems increasingly optimistic that she will be OK. Though her treatment hasn’t started — she’s having surgery July 1 — playing in the Open seemed like a better idea than pacing around the house.
And she already has her husband on a mission.
“She’s left me a number of little notes, texts, cards, hints, that she would like to have a silver trophy in her hospital room,” Mickelson said. “So I’m going to try to accommodate that.”
In a strange way, his chances may never be better in a tournament he has come so agonizingly close to winning. Indeed, the first Open he thought he would miss in 16 years could be the first Open he wins.
That’s largely because, other than trying to accommodate his wife, the pressure is off. There are no expectations, because there was never enough time to let them build and, besides, Woods is everyone’s pick to repeat anyway.
He’s hitting the ball perhaps better than ever, even though he hasn’t played much.
“Can he hold his concentration over 72 holes? That’s the question. But that might not be a bad thing,” said Mickelson’s swing coach, Butch Harmon. “Phil has proven that he can overanalyze things too much sometimes. Maybe keeping everything simple will be a good thing.”