He’s a comedian with a lightning-quick, razor-sharp needle.
A man with a golf IQ that’s off the charts, a wannabe Albert Einstein who at times thinks he’s Google. Is a great husband and father. Has a generous heart, a desire to mentor, an enormous appetite for life and the finest foods and wine.
He is a massive presence and possesses a mammoth charitable arm. Loves games of chance and fears no man or bad lie or any tree between him and his intended target.
And Phil Mickelson is one of the best golfers that has walked the planet.
That’s what Lefty’s colleagues said about the man who turned 50 on June 16. They shared with Golfweek their takes on Mickelson and their favorite memories of the man who continues to hit bombs and has a plaque in the World Golf Hall of Fame, three green jackets, a Wanamaker Trophy, a Claret Jug, a record six silver medals from the U.S. Open and 44 PGA Tour titles.
In short, it’s been a half-century of laughs, wonderment, fulfillment and plenty of excitement. Mickelson’s lived large, played large and certainly been a large presence in the game he started playing by mirroring his father with left-handed swings despite being a natural righty.
And he’ll continue to make us all wonder what Phil will do next.
“He’s really just a goofball. One of the greatest players ever, but still a goofball,” said Harris English, who pointed to a moment during The Match II as an example that encapsulates Mickelson. On the third hole, Mickelson was chirping about activating his calves and begging Tiger Woods for an advantage ahead of the long-drive contest. Woods turned to the camera, smiled and told the viewing audience “this is what I have to listen to every time we play.”
“That’s Phil,” English said. “He is who he is. Always talking, always having fun, always on the ready. He is very personable. A great guy to talk to. You can ask him about anything and he’s never going to short-change anybody. His heart and his mind is in everything he does. He’s just a great guy to be around.
“He’s a lot of fun and he’s been great for this game.”
While Mickelson usually takes over any room he walks into with non-stop jokes and stories, he can have an impact without saying a word. At the 2016 PGA Championship, Ryan Palmer said he told Mickelson that his wife, Jennifer, had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Mickelson’s wife, Amy, and mother, Mary, are both breast cancer survivors.
“I pulled Phil aside in the scoring tent and I told him and I wanted to ask him a few things,” said Palmer, whose wife beat cancer. “He didn’t say a word and he just gave me the biggest hug. For a long time, he didn’t say a word. Then we chatted.
“I’ll never forget that moment.”
Here are some more stories and memories from his PGA Tour brethren.
“One of the funniest things I’ve always remembered was one year we were in an In-N-Out in the Palm Springs area and I was with Mario, my brother-in-law, and we had already sat down to eat. And Phil and Bones came in, they ordered and they came to sit with us. And Phil gets his food and comes over and he has two triples, no fries. Two triples. Not doubles, triples. They were huge. And this obviously was before he started taking care of himself more. And he sat down and had this big grin on his face and he’s just like, ‘What? What’s the big deal?’ And he pounds both of them.
“What you see on TV is who he is. This fun-loving guy who has a lot of jokes, a lot of pranks, and he just loves to have fun. He loves to give you crap and he loves when you give it back to him. He’s one of the top 15, 20 best players best ever. He has all the shots, especially up around the greens. And he was never afraid to do anything. He didn’t back down from anything and there aren’t many guys who can play like that. And he still plays that way. That’s a unique feature about him because a lot of guys play with fear.”
“I was with Callaway in 2015 playing the final round of the BMW Championship at Conway Farms with him. Callaway had a new prototype golf ball and I was in love with it. Now, I was a big George Brett fan when I was growing up, so my baseball number as a kid was No. 5. And when I started testing this golf ball they were all Callaway 5s. And I’m thinking this is sweet, they made me a golf ball with a 5 on it.
“So I’m playing with Phil on Sunday and we get on the first tee and we both have Callaway 5 balls. So I go, ‘Why do you have Callaway 5? They made this golf ball for me.’ He goes, ‘I have 5 major championships, idiot, they made it for me.’ I felt so small. I heard later on that that wasn’t the case, that they didn’t go with 5 because of him, but he came up with it on the spot and he made me believe it. That’s the beauty of Phil Mickelson – he’s not afraid to dish it out and he can take it. He’s pretty witty and he always has the answers.”
“When I was 9 years old I was at a San Diego junior golf banquet and he was this 16-year-old player of the year and he was the kid that gave the speech. And we all knew who he was. And he was the same guy you know now back then, rattling off jokes he thought were funny and he would laugh at himself more than anyone else would laugh and he hasn’t changed one iota since then. Phil is funny. It’s a quirky funny. But he knows he’s quirky. He likes laughing at his own jokes more than people are laughing at his jokes.
“People know how great his short game is, but I think people forget how great of an iron player Phil is. He’s still got many great years in front of him. His driving has never been his strength, but he can hit any shot no matter where his drive went. And he could be so aggressive because he knew he could get it up and down out of a garbage can. So he shot at every pin. He’s almost better at the harder shots than the easy shots. And the thing I admire the most about Phil is his work ethic. He plays more golf than anybody. And he wants to win everything no matter what it is. But his worth ethic is off the charts. If I was nearly 50 and I’ve won this many majors and all those Tour wins and have millions of dollars, would I be working this hard on an off week? I don’t think the answer would be yes, but I work harder because I see his work ethic. It is second to none.”
“I’m a big Phil Mickelson fan. He is what I would call the epitome of what all the greatest players of all time all have is the big self-belief in themselves. They know they can get out of any situation and they can win in any situation.
“And the Presidents Cup (in 2017), when we teamed up for three matches (they went 2-0-1) meant a lot to me. I think Phil asked to play with me because it wasn’t even in the cards until they came out with the pairings on Wednesday and I saw we were playing together. Phil knew I was driving it really well and putting it really well at the time and he felt he was hitting his irons great so we’d be a good team. Any time a great player wants to play with you it’s an awesome feeling. Through my career I’ve gone up each level and never really thought I was on top of everything until the last few years, and every new experience, you’re trying to prove yourself, so when somebody like that picks you and wants to be your partner you feel you have proven yourself.
“And I’m known out there to be witty and smart and a trash talker and Phil’s in the same boat. So we go back and forth when we play together needling each other. One time he said something and I fired right back at him and he had nothing to say. On the next hole I hear him tell Bones, ‘I just can never quite get this kid Kisner. He always has a comeback.’”
“I met him at Phoenix my rookie year in 2011 and I introduced myself to him probably the first 10 times I met him because I just didn’t want to be the guy he was looking at going, ‘Who are you?’ And every time he’d go, ‘Yeah, I know. I know who you are.’ So we started playing together, the first time, was at the Players that year, with Keegan Bradley, and we played a 9-hole practice round. And I guess he liked us enough that he kept wanting us to play more practice rounds.
“He’s such a big star and he’s done so much for the sport that you just don’t feel like you belong anywhere around him. But the great part of Phil is that there is nothing about his personality that makes you feel that way. He’s so welcoming, so genuine, so nice and so helpful. I remember the first time we ever played together, we were on No. 3 at the Players, the par-3, and short left there’s that big run off and I went down there trying to figure out the chip. And I said, ‘Phil, how do you hit this shot? This shot is so hard, you’re short-sided, it’s into the grain, what do you do?’ And he came over and he said, ‘You putt it.’ Well, OK.
“Phil is so funny. We always joke that if you just wrote down the things that he says, it would sound like he’s a jerk. But the delivery is in such a way that it makes you laugh. He’s always ready to talk trash, always doing it in a fun way.
“The first time I went to Augusta National to practice for the Masters in 2012 I played with Phil and I was shocked at how hard he was working around the greens. Hitting putts, writing things down. The guy had won it three times already. But he was grinding on every hole and checking all these different things. I was shocked at his enthusiasm at how to figure out this puzzle we all face in golf.”
“When I was younger, and even through college, I think Phil has always enjoyed pulling the wool over your eyes or trying to get one past you or making up a story to see if you will believe him. Sometimes they’re true, sometimes they’re not. I’ve called his bluff before and caught him and I’ve called his bluff and been wrong. Now he’s kind of like the boy who called wolf a lot, everyone is looking for it.
“He definitely has a sense of humor, which is what I’ve enjoyed the most. We’ve been in team rooms and he knows how to keep guys loose. He knows how to say the right thing at the right time, and sometimes it’s the wrong thing at the right time. He just likes to make people laugh.
“He’s ultra, ultra, ultra-talented. He can do things with a golf ball that even the best players in the world can’t do. What’s fun about playing in those team events is you learn your strengths, that you can do a few things yourself that other folks struggle to do, but you also put yourself in the same room with Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods and Brooks Koepka and Jordan Spieth and you just go down the list and you realize how much talent is in the room and everyone is capable of doings things that everyone else wishes they could do. And with Phil, there’s definitely a lot of that, from the short game to iron play to how he approaches the game. I enjoy how he breaks a golf course down and how he uses his strength to attack a golf course.”
“When I was deciding to turn pro or stay an amateur for the Masters in 2007, Tim, Phil’s brother, who I had gotten to know through amateur golf, said ‘How ’bout I have my brother give you a call?’ Are you kidding me? Of course that would be amazing. Phil was obviously a guy I looked up to a ton and he was a hero of mine growing up. Now, that obviously changed and I was a terrible judge of character back then. … I’m just kidding. He reached out to me and that started a bit of a friendship.
“When I got out on Tour and we started playing practice rounds together, I learned how much of a trash-talker he is. In all the time we’ve played together, we’ve never teamed up in a gambling match, just because we both enjoy needling each other so much. And he’s very good at it. He’s kind of like Tiger – they hold the trump card. We’ve won this many majors and this many tournaments. But that’s easy to throw at me. So I always tell him, ‘Listen, when we’re going to talk trash, there’s none of that. You can’t throw those green jackets at me. Get creative.’ And he did.
“As for his game, there are certain parts of his game that I don’t think anyone could compare to, like his short game around the greens. Actually, from 100 yards in, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anybody better. It’s crazy great. And he’ll tell you how good he is. And that’s one of the things I admire about him – his confidence level. His mind is so good and so impressive. I have never seen him say a bad word about himself.”
“There only were a few guys when I came out on Tour where you got caught up watching. The obvious one was you know who (for those of you who don’t, that would be Tiger Woods). Phil was one of the guys. Vijay Singh because he was winning so much. Ernie Els, too. Phil had this aura about him where you were just going to watch. I remember his hands being ridiculous and they still are. I played with him a lot but one that sticks out was when I played with him at Sugarloaf and then he won the Masters the next week (in 2006). I was in the last group on Sunday. I tied for second, was 15 under and I lost by 13 shots to Phil. That says it all. It was one of the most impressive things I’ve seen in golf.
“He just makes me laugh. His humor is obviously sarcastic, but in a healthy way, it’s also self-deprecating, which I like. I’ve always loved playing with him. His rhythm, his cadence, the way he goes about it with his caddie. He’s not slow. He’s not rushed. I love the conversations. They run the gamut of topics. I like how he likes to stir the pot. Makes you think. He’s always positive. And he’s without question a competitor.”
“The first time I met him I was a rookie (in 2011) and we were at Houston and he introduced himself and he watched me hit a few balls and it was pretty thrilling. The big thing he did was during the Players Championship, he asked me and Brendan Steele to play with him on the Monday of Players in 2011. For a guy like him to fly in and play on a Monday, just to get to know us, that was quite a gesture. He was so great to us.
“One of the things I was shocked about when I got on to the Tour was how helpful the older players were. And Phil was at the top of the list. When you’re a rookie and everything is coming at you so fast, and then I had a friend who I could talk to and who was there to genuinely help me. And I’ve become friends with some of my idols. And Phil was an idol of mine growing up and all of a sudden I’m able to play with him, ask him questions about life and golf and endorsements and more. He is so accessible. I still talk to him about everything.
“He thinks he’s very funny. What’s great about Phil is he’ll have something planned out. You know he’s been thinking about it for a week. He’s quick to make jokes about himself, too. He can dish it out and he can take it so you don’t have to tiptoe around him.
“Some of my best moments was when I partnered with him Ryder Cup and the Presidents Cup (they were 6-2-1 as partners, including 3-0 in the 2012 RC). That Ryder Cup in 2012 was the most fun I’ve ever had in golf. My memory sort of ends on Saturday because, well, we lost on Sunday. But a cool story about the 2012 Ryder Cup was, earlier in the year, we were playing Doral and he asked me to go to dinner. On the way home he said to me, ‘Just so you know, we’re going to partner up at the Ryder Cup and we’re going to be a tough team.’ I remember looking at him like, ‘What the hell are you talking about?’ I had won the PGA but the Ryder Cup wasn’t on my radar. It was such a jaw-dropping moment in my life because he came to me because he wanted me to play with him. Then I was on the first tee with one of the greatest players ever. I always thank him for that.”
Article originally appeared on azcentral.com