Phil Mickelson

Phil Mickelson has led an outstanding career, from being only the fourth amateur to win a PGA Tour Tournament to winning three major championships in consecutive years. Known for being right handed but with a left handed swing, Mickelson played his way to become one of the most recognised and popular golfers of his generation.

Career overview

Mickelson, born in 1970 in San Diego, attended the University of San Diego High School before going on to attend Arizona State University on a golf scholarship.

During his time at Arizona State, Mickelson’s status as a golfer rose and he was recognised as showing true promise when he triumphed three times at the NCAA individual championships, the top event for collegiate golfer in the year. In 1990 he won both the NCAA Championship and the US Amateur making him only the second player, along with Jack Nicklaus, to win both in the same year. He was also awarded three Haskins Awards (1990, 1991 and 1992) as further testament to his burgeoning talent.

As an amateur golfer Mickelson added to his name an impressing record of achievements including being the first left handed player to win the US Amateur title in 1990 and, in 1991, claiming his first PGA Tour Tournament at the Northern Telecom Open.

As a result, by the time he made his entrance into professional golf at the US Open in 1992, Mickelson’s name was firmly established in the golfing world.

Professional Career

Mickelson’s success after turning professional was immediate, winning the World Series of Golf in 1996 and the Greater Hartford Open in 2001 and 2002. He also added a further four PGA Tour Tournaments between 1996 and 2000 to his record of achievements.

Other notable wins early in his career include being the first golfer in twenty years to win the Arizona slam (Nortel and Phoenix Opens) in 1996 and, in 2000, preventing Tiger Woods from his seventh consecutive success, defeating him at the Won Buick Invitational.

Despite continuing to win PGA tours, and taking a record at the 2006 Bellsouth Classic, finishing 28 under par 260, a major title was still a step away. Between 1999 and 2003 Mickelson finished in the top two or three in major tournaments six times. Often criticised for missing easy shots and taking too many risks, it seemed Mickelson hadn’t perfected his game to win at championship level. The tag of golf’s eternal bridesmaid was further justified when he picked up the record for the most second place finishes in the US Open with four, along with Bobby Jones, San Snead and Jack Nicklaus.

Championships

In 2004, Mickelson’s time came and he won his first major championship at the Masters, a 20ft birdie putt on the final hole giving him success over Ernie Els. This achievement also gave him the claim to fame of being only the third golfer to win with a left handed swing, as well as joining three others in winning through scoring with a birdie.

A reshuffle followed this landmark victory, with Mickelson changing his contract from Titleist/Acushnet Golf to Callaway Golf (remarkably the move came about after a message he left for a Callaway executive got in to the wrong hands). Leaving his contract with Titleist 16 months early and making the change so close to the Ryder Cup in 2004, Mickelson fell under scrutiny from the press and fellow players. He promptly failed to shine at the event and received considerable criticism.

His popularity and game recovered quickly though and, in the following year, he won his second major at the 2005 PGA Championship at Baltusrol. A trademark soft pitch and a birdie finish put him in pole position, winning with a total of 276 and four under par, one shot ahead of his closest competitor.

Mickelson came close to winning three consecutive majors at the US Open in 2006. However, a disastrous final hole, with balls hitting corporate hospitality tents and trees rather than the fairway, saw him lose to Geoff Ogilvy.

Nevertheless, victory three followed at the 2006 Masters, finishing at 3 under par on the final round. This win sent him flying up into 2nd place in the official world rankings, with only Tiger Woods above him. This Masters win also meant Mickelson had seen success at a major tournament for three years straight, a feat only he and Tiger Woods have accomplished in the past two decades.

2006 to the present

Mickelson continues to win, taking The Players Championship in May 2007 at 11 under par, with a score of 227. It hasn’t all been positive though as, due to a wrist injury, he missed the cut in 2007 for the US Open. This was the first time he had missed a Major cut since 1999. Success has never been too far away though and, on September 3rd 200, he won the Deutsche Bank Championships.

While his achievements on the tee have won him many fans, his actions off it have been equally important. Mickelson is renowned as one of the most accessible players on the tour and continually shows appreciation for those who support him. Indeed, Mickelson once paid a spectator $200 to fix his watch after it was broken by one of his misguided shots. In another act of random generosity, in 2007, he paid for the daughter of Conrad Dobler, a retired NFL player, to go to college after hearing of the family’s problems paying medical expenses.

Mickelson’s popularity is evident both as a player and as a potential marketing figure, with sponsors including Ford, Exxon Mobile and Callaway Golf all using him to promote their products. His ten year agreement with Callaway Golf is worth more than $10 million a year. However, first and foremost, with 32 career victories to his name since his professional debut in 1992, it is what Mickelson has done and can do that continues and will continue to attract attention.