Souhan: Win or lose, Mickelson is worth a watch

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 12, 2014 - 12:43 PM

Fan appeal is driven by his game, not tabloid ink.

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Phil Mickelson walks on the 15th green during a practice round for the U.S. Open golf tournament in Pinehurst, N.C., Tuesday, June 10, 2014. The tournament starts Thursday. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

Photo: Chuck Burton, ASSOCIATED PRESS - AP

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– Ti­ger Woods hasn’t won a ma­jor title since 2008. By the end of this week’s U.S. Open, he will have gone 24 ma­jors with­out a vic­to­ry.

If re­cent his­to­ry is prel­ude, Woods’ ab­sence at Pine­hurst No. 2 this week will cause a dip in tel­e­vi­sion rat­ings, proof that casu­al golf fans have con­clud­ed that Woods is the most in­ter­est­ing golf­er in the world even when he’s not play­ing well, or of­ten, or at all.

They are en­ti­tled to be wrong, in much the same way that chan­nel- flip­pers are en­ti­tled to waste their time watch­ing the self-pro­mot­ing, play-act­ing red­necks on “Duck Dy­nas­ty.”

Phil Mick­el­son is more in­ter­est­ing than Woods in every cate­go­ry of life oth­er than ac­cu­mu­lat­ed ma­jor ti­tles.

Woods be­came a dom­i­nant golf­er, por­trayed him­self as re­lent­less­ly bor­ing, then suc­cumbed to in­ju­ries and scan­dal. His achieve­ments were in­ter­est­ing. His back­ground was in­ter­est­ing. He him­self turned out to be a drone point­ed in the wrong di­rec­tion.

If Woods’ life is the back page of a tab­loid, Mick­el­son’s is the novel you can’t put down.

Nothing Mickelson does is pre­dict­a­ble.

Name an­oth­er golf­er who, af­ter the first round of a promi­nent golf tour­na­ment, had FBI agents wait­ing to ques­tion him about alleged in­sid­er trad­ing. That hap­pened to Phil a few weeks ago at the Memorial. He’s not only try­ing to beat Charles Ho­well III, he’s try­ing to be­come Thurston Ho­well III.

Name an­oth­er golf­er who would change his put­ter grip two days be­fore com­pet­ing in the only ma­jor he hasn’t won. Phil did, de­cid­ing on Tues­day to go with the “claw” grip.

Name an­oth­er golf­er who has played in ma­jors using two driv­ers, or has in­vent­ed his own — his “Phrankenwood” 2-wood.

Name an­oth­er golf­er who is so des­pised with­in the game for alleged pho­ni­ness, but who con­nects so ea­ger­ly with gal­le­ries, signs so many auto­graphs and has nev­er dis­played any­thing but loy­al­ty to his wife and longtime caddie.

Name an­oth­er golf­er with five ma­jor ti­tles who is known not for con­trol or tech­nique, but reck­less­ness. Mick­el­son might be the great­est golf­er in his­to­ry known for ar­gu­ing with his caddie when his caddie tells him to do some­thing sen­si­ble, and whose swing con­tains so many in­ap­pro­pri­ate­ly mov­ing parts.

And here’s Mickelson’s ca­reer in one range buck­et: Name an­oth­er golf­er who has won five ma­jor ti­tles while be­ing de­fined by his loss­es.

Only five play­ers have com­pleted the mod­ern ca­reer grand slam: Jack Nick­laus, Ti­ger Woods, Ben Hogan, Gene Sa­ra­zen and Gary Play­er. Bobby Jones won it when the fourth ma­jor was the U.S. Amateur, not the PGA Championship.

Mick­el­son is one of 11 golf­ers who has won three of the four ma­jors. The only ma­jor that has elud­ed him is the U.S. Open.

Isn’t the quest to quell de­mons more in­ter­est­ing than ro­bot­ic dom­i­nance?

Mick­el­son stood on the 18th tee Sun­day at the U.S. Open at Winged Foot in 2006 need­ing only a par to win his first ma­jor. He reached for his driv­er and hit a hos­pi­tal­i­ty tent. Af­ter his double bo­gey, he said, “I am such an id­i­ot.”

Isn’t Mick­el­son’s bared soul pref­er­a­ble to Ti­ger’s clenched teeth?

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