The past 15 months have been a whirlwind for Phil Mickelson.
The stretch started with Lefty on top of the golf world. At the age of 50, he won the PGA Championship at Kiawah — his sixth major title — and was, quite literally, swarmed by the masses as they celebrated his triumph.
Later in the summer, Mickelson dominated on the PGA Tour Champions circuit. He won four times in six starts, including the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship, signifying the start of another impressive chapter in his career.
But as the calendar flipped to 2022, things became turbulent in Lefty World. Rumors began swirling with Mickelson’s name attached to the mysterious Saudi Golf League. In a February interview, he ripped the PGA Tour for their “obnoxious greed,” giving more credence to the claims he would defect from the establishment tour.
Then, the bombshell dropped. In an excerpt for his unauthorized biography on Mickelson, Alan Shipnuck published some unsavory comments from the six-time major winner, revealing his true intentions in his dealings with the Saudis.
“They’re scary motherf—— to get involved with,” he said. “We know they killed [Washington Post reporter and U.S. resident Jamal] Khashoggi and have a horrible record on human rights. They execute people over there for being gay. Knowing all of this, why would I even consider it? Because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape how the PGA Tour operates. They’ve been able to get by with manipulative, coercive, strong-arm tactics because we, the players, had no recourse. As nice a guy as [PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan] comes across as, unless you have leverage, he won’t do what’s right. And the Saudi money has finally given us that leverage.”
With the release of those comments, Mickelson burned bridges with both sides of the aisle. Shortly after the story ran, Mickelson issued a statement on social media and withdrew from the public eye.
Mickelson has since started competing again, mostly in LIV Golf events. But the Mickelson we see now is a different Mickelson than the one golf fans came to know about his 30-year pro career.
Gone are the sponsors that have become synonymous with his name — KPMG, Callaway, Workday. Instead, he wears monochromatic, dark ensembles. His press appearances are far less animated, too, and his once-lively Twitter account has gone dark.
Those aren’t the only ways in which Mickelson is different these days, either. According to Davis Love III, Lefty is a “troubled soul” — and he isn’t keen on accepting help from some of his closest friends in golf.
“He’s had a lot of friends — like me — trying very hard to try to help him,” Love III said on the Fire Drill podcast. “Not about LIV and not about golf, but about Phil Mickelson. Right now, it’s tragic that none of us can get him to take a phone call. You’ve heard Fred [Couples’] quotes. He’s gone dark.”
Additionally, Mickelson has recently joined with 10 other ex-Tour pros in filing an anti-trust suit against the PGA Tour.
“He always has challenged the rules and regulations of the PGA Tour,” Love III said. “But the PGA Tour is what made Phil Mickelson famous. … The system worked for him and made him famous and put him in the Hall of Fame.”
But despite much effort by some of his closest allies from the Tour, Mickelson has refused to take any advice on how to get things back on the right track.
“One of his really good friends said, ‘Look, we’ve tried as hard as we can,’” Love said. “Eventually, we have to move on.”
You can listen to the entire podcast here.