In a conference call with reporters this week, Phil Mickelson suggested he is up to the idea of becoming a full-time member of the European PGA Tour, which would in all likelihood reduce the amount of PGA Tour events he enters.
Personally, I wouldn't be all that broken up about it, and Tim Finchem shouldn't be either.
All this hubbub of North American sports stars going abroad for bigger cash started this summer, when Kobe Bryant and Lebron James suggested, while in China for the Olympics, they'd consider a European basketball contract if it were lucrative enough. Numerous free agents, like Josh Childress and Nenad Kristic, signed contracts abroad. NHL star Jaromir Jagr chose to leave the New York Rangers to play pro in Russia.
Now it appears Phil Mickelson is suggesting he is willing to become a card-carrying member of the Euro tour by playing in 12 events sometime in the near future. Before you break out the tissue paper, six events on U.S. soil, like the World Golf Championships and the three majors, are considered Euro Tour events.
I think this has the sound of an angry teen who keeps threatening to leave home because his parents won't extend his curfew.
Mickelson has been sulking for awhile now. I began to notice when he was complaining about the USGA course setup of Oakmont Country Club at the U.S. Open two summers ago after he tweaked his wrist practicing in rough they hadn't cut for months, rough that, as it turns out, was going to be trimmed prior to the event anyways.
"This is the USGA's wet dream here," he muttered after his opening round 74 en route to missing the cut by a stroke.
Then, his irritability with the PGA Tour resurfaced during last year's inaugural FedEx Cup Playoffs. At the Deutschebank Championships, he beat Tiger in arguably their most memorable head-to-head duel. (And who's willing to bet with me their last?) Lefty gained the lead in the points race with two tournaments to go, and then chose to skip the next event - in what seemed to be nothing more than to spite Tim Finchem's failure to listen to his and some other players' considerations when plotting the new, season-ending cash grab.
In doing so, he surrendered to Woods all of the momentum and the $10 million.
In 2008, with Woods hobbled and later sidelined, Mickelson was primed to steal a few more majors to add to his three.
That was until he decided to leave his driver out of the bag on the longest U.S. Open course in history and a local track he was supposed to be able to get around with his eyes closed. In the footnotes of Tiger's historic triumph at Torrey Pines will be Phil Mickelson, hacking away from the bottom of the 13th fairway on Friday en route to a white flag-waving quadruple bogey.
Later at Valhalla Golf Club, he appeared to be the unproven, jittery half of a Mickelson-Anthony Kim Ryder Cup pairing. Who was the veteran in that group again? In Sunday singles, Kim set the tone by dominating Europe's usual stalwart, Sergio Garcia. Mickelson was thumped by Justin Rose.
Because of all this, I'm not so sure he has the cache - or the game - he used to around these parts. If he wants to play in more tournaments that come on TV at 7 a.m. in the U.S., get a fraction of the live fans and inferior money - other than the $20 million payday he might have a shot at because Tiger Woods probably won't be there - so be it.
But I'm cool with less Phil on the PGA Tour, especially if Boo Weekley can find another gear in 2009 and starts winning tournaments that aren't hosted at Harbour Town. Sergio Garcia also plays in the States plenty enough to compete in the FedEx Cup, and he has a better shot at winning a major next season than Phil, who is probably kidding himself thinking he can win the Race to Dubai. He's not the force he once was.
Europe surely remembers that David Beckham defected to the MLS, in the twilight of his career, to Los Angeles. If Mickelson eventually decides to ditch more PGA Tour events for Europe, I guess all we can say here is "Buenos dias, Lefty!"
October 30, 2008
Brandon Tucker is the Managing Editor for Golf Channel Courses & Travel. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and over 500 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours.
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