May
31
2012
Mickelson had his fill, bails after shooting 79
By Stephanie Wei under PGA Tour

Phil: I'm...so...tired...that I don't have it in me to will the ball in!

Ed. note: My apologies for posting this so late, but I was busy discussing and debating Phil Mickelson’s controversial withdrawal on Twitter. I’m actually pretty mentally fatigued, so I’m not sure if I can finish writing. I took two weeks off and catching up on sleep and rest really wore me out, so now I’m too tired to deal with all this work. In the best interest of my health, I think I need to take another break to prep for the U.S. Open–wait, I have been doing that all week. However, I’ll do my best to bang out one more post today.

Phil Mickelson struck the ball “horrendously,” leading to a first-round seven-over 79 at the Memorial Tournament. He would probably have had the weekend off unless he turned it around overnight and bounced back with a 62. Instead of giving it a go, Mickelson decided to cut his losses short and withdraw from the tournament hosted by Jack Nicklaus, citing “mental fatigue.”

 

You see, after playing three tournaments in a row, Phil spent last week on vacation in Europe, then he had a corporate outing on Long Island, and then he had the Wednesday pro-am here at Muirfield Village. Now he needs another break to recuperate from his vacation, so that he’s rested and prepared for the mental grind of the U.S. Open. Makes complete sense, right? Right.

“I think that the U.S. Open is such a mental and physical grind, you need to be sharp going in there, and Memphis is so hot that it takes a lot out of you to play that week,” said Phil when asked if he would consider adding the FedEx St. Jude to his schedule.

Phil and his wife Amy went to France and Italy to celebrate Amy’s 40th birthday. In fact, it’s the actual date today.

“We had a great time, but I think I probably just went a little bit overboard last month, and it has nothing to do with playing poorly and so forth, but I do think I need to get rested to play my best for the Open,” Mickelson told reporters afterward.

However, Phil praised Muirfield Village and the setup (which he’s strongly criticized in the past), making sure to acknowledge that it had nothing to do with the tournament and golf course, or playing poorly. So if he had shot 63, he still would have pulled out? Hm, I don’t buy that.

“I think it was more that mentally I wasn’t able to focus as well from the last month more than anything,” said Phil.

Regardless, withdrawing due to “mental fatigue” is weak. There’s a reason why golfers get a bad rap for being soft. I would love to hear Rajon Rondo’s response to Phil quitting.

It’s also disrespectful to the tournament and organizers. This isn’t the average event, either. This is Jack’s tournament — as in Jack Nicklaus, who is considered one of the three or four most influential ambassadors of golf.

“I feel like it’s the responsibility of a player to see through your commitment and finish the tournament and so forth,” said Mickelson when asked if he felt the WD was justifiable. “And I’m kind of overruling that just a touch because I’m trying to think big picture on what’s the best way for me to get ready for the U.S. Open.”

***

Mickelson played with Bubba Watson and Rickie Fowler, which as you can imagine, drew massive crowds. Now that fans are allowed to bring in cell phones (which has been the policy for over a year), but there are big signs and notices that the ringer must be turned off (duh) and can only be used in specific areas, which means taking pictures is prohibited.

Phones ringing and people talking loudly on them hasn’t been an issue, but recently, there have been loads of complaints from players who have been distracted because of fans taking pictures (camera and phone are synonymous in 2012). It’s gotten worse lately, but I didn’t think it was completely out of control. Plus, I am definitely hard of hearing since I rarely hear the clicking noise while a player is mid-swing.

Bubba was noticeably annoyed with fans taking pictures with their phones. He also thinks it caused Phil to play poorly and eventually get fed up, according to the AP’s Doug Ferguson:

“It took Phil out of his game,” Watson said of the continual clicks and snaps of cell phone-camera shutters. “Phil’s a great player and a great champion and it just took him out of his game. It’s sad. It’s sad that cell phones can make or break a championship.”

Ferguson also tweeted:

Sure, that’s speculation, but it makes sense to me. Phil does many great things for the game. There’s no denying that. He’s fan friendly. He signs a lot autographs. He often goes out of his way to give a ball to a kid in the gallery. He charms sponsors. He is the perfect family man. Etc.

Sure, he slips up every once in a while and skips press conferences or sneaks out the side door of the scoring area to avoid the press and fans. He’s not perfect, so we give him a pass. Does he deserve one for this incident? He said it himself — it’s the player’s responsibility — barring injury or family crisis — to see through his commitment and finish the tournament out of respect for the organizers and fans.

Oh, but he was honest! Eh, Phil always has an agenda to serve Phil. I’m not saying that in a bad way, either, honestly. I’m actually impressed with how well Phil plays the “game.” He puts in the time and the effort, so I have nothing but respect for his contributions on and off the course.

If I’m Jack, I’d feel slighted and have a few choice words for Phil, which I’m sure he did. There’s another word that I’d like to use to describe a golfer withdrawing because he needs a vacation to recover from the one he just took, but I’m exercising restraint. Let’s just say — man up.

Oh, in case someone brings up what would the response have been if Tiger had bailed like Phil? Way worse. He was skewered for withdrawing due to injury, a legitimate reason.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the Tour’s cell phone policy changes in the near future, either. After allowing fans to bring them in, it’s clear that trusting them to behave with common courtesy is too much to ask. However, it’s 2012 and you can’t reverse the policy, either. What’s the solution? Well, that’s above my pay grade.

*Update: Sorry, I forgot to mention this (like I said, I’m tired). As the game’s most recognizable and influential players and ambassadors, Phil and Tiger are held to higher standards than, say, Tom Gillis or Sang-Moon Bae. “With great power and influence, comes great responsibility” — it’s part of the deal. Players like Phil and Tiger showing up are a big reason why sponsors put up millions of dollars to put on the tournament and why fans pay good money to attend the event. OK, now I’m really too exhausted to go on…

*Update 2: Thursday was an incredibly weird day. I mentioned that while I was out there walking with the threesome of Matt Every, Harris English and Ryo Ishikawa, but I couldn’t put my finger on it exactly and thought maybe it was just me. I wrote a few tweets joking about how Every taking an all-time record-high 9 seconds to hit a golf shot and seeing Ryo three-putt for the first time ever.

Well, after processing and discussing with others out there, I wasn’t alone in feeling something was off. It doesn’t make any sense, but there was the chaotic atmosphere on the golf course and there was a pretty small gallery following that group. I mean, I saw one guy walking about 10 feet from the ropes while talking loudly on his cell phone (with his daughter–he was asking her about her dinner plans). Oh, of course he was having that conversation when Every was in mid-swing on No. 7 (I think). As you imagine (if you know Every at all), he didn’t flinch and hit a great shot.

Talked with some caddies later in the evening and they confirmed that the fans were ignorant and discourteous and it was unusually bad. It makes no sense since golf is pretty popular in Ohio, so you’d think the golf IQ would be higher…or at least average. From what I recall, I don’t remember seeing the marshals actually “marshaling” at all. It was strangely lax. I usually get scolded for nothing by one or two on a power trip and have to politely inform them that I am out on Tour every week, so I can assure them I know the policies. I know they’re just trying to do as they were told or (mis)informed. At Muirfield Village, it seemed like the marshals had no idea and were not told of the no-cell phone policy. They were kind of there to hang out.

Memorial is one of the best tour stops of the year because everyone loves the golf course, which is absolutely pure. Thing is, with non-course logistics, perhaps there are some operational details that need to be updated — if that makes any sense. I said this on Wednesday but I couldn’t really explain it and thought maybe I was just crazy, but Thursday’s drama confirmed it isn’t just my imagination…

I still can’t exactly pinpoint it, but let me put it this way: there’s a disconnect between part A and part B and when they clash, the result creates mayhem. I’m not sure if this is exactly the analogy I’m looking for, but imagine feeling like you’re in a time warp, or transporting the OSU campus to a retirement community (from an operational standpoint). Catch my drift? Excuse me if I’m out of line and completely wrong, but like I said, I’m so tired my fingers barely have the energy to finish..typing..this..sen…tence.

Goodnight.

(AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)