THE PHIL FILE BORN June 16, 1970 (San Diego)
SIZE 6'2", 190 pounds (give or take)
KEY STAT 0-for-42 in career majors
He has a gorgeous wife, two beautiful daughters and a brand-new
six-acre estate just outside San Diego. He pilots jets and routinely
supplements his obscene income by laying down large sports bets in
Vegas. He's won 21 times on the PGA Tour, more than any of his
contemporaries save Tiger. Big whoop. You know what we know, what
everybody knows. More than anything, Phil Mickelson is the
BPNTWAM (Best Player Never to Win a Major). But after a winless
2003, might Phil even be losing his grip on the BPNTWAM tag? Or is
he just setting up the field? Known as the kind of guy who will tell
you how to build a watch if you ask him what time it is, Mickelson
says he doesn't really care all that much about the majors. It's the
competition that drives him. Right.
1 HEAD GAME
Phil caught some heat last year for joking about how he was "blowing it past" Tiger, but he is as big a hitter as any on Tour. He's also got the widest array of greenside gems in the game. There's no doubt Mickelson has the shots in his bag: he's always near the top in driving distance and birdies. The trick is how he uses them. "Phil likes to play aggressively, but he might have won three or four majors if he'd played smarter," Nick Price said before the start of the 2003 PGA Championship. "Golf is not about how many birdies you make. It's about how many mistakes you make."
2 HEAD CASE
His parents confessed to a golf writer that they once attended a workshop on how to deal with a strong-willed child when Phil was a kid. Must not have worked. Mickelson refuses to buy into the logic that four tourneys a year define any player's overall greatness. So he scoffs at guys like Price who tell him he should play the game with more prudence. "I don't care if I ever win a major," he said last season. "If I change the way I play golf, I won't play to the level I have been playing. So I won't ever change. Not tomorrow, or at Augusta, or at the U.S. Open, or at any tournament." Strong-willed to a fault? Time will tell.
3 ANSWER GUY
His friends on Tour have tagged him The Genius, The Expert and MIGJAM (Man I'm Good, Just Ask Me). But they add that he's a lovable know-it-all. Problem is, not everyone gets Phil. When he joked last year that Tiger was playing with inferior equipment that "only he can make work," the folks at Nike missed the joke and launched a campaign to counter his remarks. And Mickelson didn't exactly bolster his image when he answered a question about his girth by saying, "I've got subcutaneous fat. It just lies underneath the skin, as opposed to visceral fat, which lies underneath the muscle. There's nothing I can do about it." All this while pointing out that he knows how to spell subcutaneous and visceral.
4 OUT IN LEFTFIELD
Mickelson has always been a gallery favorite, likely due to his never-lay-up style. But you wonder if his defiant attitude about the BPNTWAM tag will eventually turn fans against him. Take that stunt with the Toledo Mud Hens. As much as we'd like to see a righthanded pitcher named Lefty, Phil's tryout for the Hens was a joke, at least to everyone except Phil. And as bush-league legend Crash Davis might say, "Win a major, try out for a baseball team, you're colorful. Post an oh-fer, try out for a baseball team, you're asking to be ridiculed."
5 LEAVING IT SHORT
In some ways, Lefty is Tiger without the Mike Douglas Show. He was hitting golf balls at 18 months, insisting on playing lefthanded even though he was righthanded at everything else. He was an NCAA champion, a U.S. Amateur champion and a winner on the Tour before he'd even turned pro. Certainly it's better to be the BPNTWAM than a JAPOT (Just Another Player On Tour). And as former BPNTWAMs Davis Love III and David Duval can attest, winning a major does not guarantee a future filled with more major glory. But as much as Mickelson, now 33, denies it's an onus, it is. And as much as he's like Tiger, one major difference remains.