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Q&A: Mickelson on his career goals, why he won’t be running for office

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You can wear out a dictionary looking for adjectives that describe Phil Mickelson. Mesmerizing. Galvanizing. Polarizing. Agonizing. But he will never be accused of being boring.

With 42 PGA Tour wins and five majors to his credit, Mickelson is one of the most accomplished and most popular golfers ever to play. The soon to be 47-year-old Hall of Famer (his birthday falls during this year’s U.S. Open at Erin Hills) is still contending on a Tour that is increasingly dominated by players young enough to be his son.

Mickelson sat down with GolfWRX for a little one on one during his stop to promote The Greenbrier Classic. The July PGA Tour event is making its return after a one-year hiatus due to a catastrophic flood that left the course and the community at large devastated. In the Q&A, Mickelson talks about his commitment to The Greenbrier, his family, and his quest for the final leg of golf’s career Grand Slam.

Michael Williams: So let’s start off with talking about The Greenbrier and this tournament. What’s special about this place, and what’s special about this tournament?

Phil Mickelson: The tournament itself is being played on one of the classic great golf courses (The Old White Course), so right there it’s got a unique catch. But what makes the Greenbrier so great, whether you’re a PGA Tour pro or whether you’re somebody from the East Coast bringing your family down here for a vacation or for the tournament, is this. The greatest moments in life are those spontaneous moments that you spend with your family, and the Greenbrier provides more spontaneous fun moments for a family than anywhere. There’s so many things to do here, from fly fishing and golf and tennis and all these fun things, that you end up having moments, having memories, that last a lifetime. And they’re formed here because of all the activities you can do together as a family.

And you’ve been a big supporter of this. Do you have a house here? 

We have a lot, and we’re building a home. This is a place where we want to spend time with not just our kids now, who are in high school, but ultimately our grandkids in a short time. This is a place where, again, you want to have those family moments.

Let’s talk a little bit about you and how you’re playing this year. Do you feel like you’re close to winning? If so, how close?

Well, the reason I feel like it’s close is that I’ve played at a very consistent level. I’ve played 14 events. I’ve made all 14 cuts, but I’ve only had a few top-10 finishes, and I’ve had almost all top-30 finishes, which means that I’m right there on the precipice of being in contention and winning, but I’m not quite putting it all together. One area has been lacking each week, whether it’s driving the ball and iron shots have been great but I haven’t putted well, like the last weekend at the Memorial. Or I’m putting great, but I hit a couple of stray tee shots or what have you. I haven’t put it all together in one week. But I’ve actually been enjoying this challenge. I’m playing better than I have in the last three or four years, even though I haven’t won in the last three or four years, and I know that it’s close. I know what it feels like to win. I know what my game needs to be for me to win. I’m playing at that level, but it’s that last little piece of putting it all together for a week, and I’m actually enjoying the challenge of doing that.

Do you feel like a player has to play better than he used to if he wants to win on Tour? Do you absolutely have to be on top of your game to win?

I think so, because the players today have such length and power and the ability to dominate a golf course that they end up making a lot of birdies. So out of all these 30, 40 young kids that hit the ball a mile and make a lot of birdies, somebody’s going to get hot that week, and so that somebody needs to be me to keep up pace. You can’t get by just hanging in there. You have to go attack the golf course and dominate it if you’re going to win.

You were diagnosed in 2010 with psoriatic arthritis. How has that changed your approach to the game and to life?

Yes, I was diagnosed in 2010, and it was a big change. But it forced me to take responsibility for my health and my fitness. I’m down now 25 pounds from my peak. I don’t eat a lot of the fast food and sugar that I used to eat. I drink lots of water instead of soda. All of that helps me to manage the condition. When I started out, I was being treated once a week and now it’s down to once a month. I feel great, and long term I don’t think the condition is going to affect what I accomplish on the course. All in all, being diagnosed was kind of a blessing in disguise.

You have not been ranked, I don’t believe, a single week as No. 1 (in the Official World Golf Rankings) in your career.

That’s right.

But you have balance in your life. This whole decision about — and we in the media have been over it many times with you — not attending the U.S. Open this year for your daughter’s graduation is about that balance. So you don’t have the one thing, but you do have the other thing. Was being No. 1 ever a specific goal for you?

PM: Sure.

What would you have done different to make that happen?

Of course it was a goal, and I had an opportunity there a couple of times, when had I won that particular week or whatnot, where I could’ve done it and I just didn’t. But that’s not the end-all of life. I’ve had a pretty good career.

“Pretty good” is one way to put it.

I just happened to play against the greatest player of all time, and I have fallen short on that front. If you compare my career to Tiger, it’s a failure, but if you compare it to just about anybody else, it’s a success. More than that, though, I love what I do. I love who I do it with, the people I get to share it with, and the time I’ve had playing this great game. So I wouldn’t change anything about it.

So you’re a pretty smart guy and a pretty personable guy, and it seems like these days smart, personable guys, including our friend (Greenbrier Resort owner and West Virginia Governor) Jim Justice seem to run for political office. Any of that in your future?

No, it’s not for me, and the reason is all the things that occur in politics — there’s a lot of dinners, there’s a lot of functions to go to — are things that I don’t enjoy. What I do enjoy is playing golf, and I do enjoy being outside. I enjoy spending time with family. I enjoy spending time with friends. What I don’t enjoy doing is multiple dinners and functions and congregations and meetings and so forth. That’s not what I enjoy. I grew up on a golf course. I grew up outside. That’s what I enjoy and those types of interactions. So at this point in my life, I’m fortunate enough to do things that I do enjoy and not that I don’t.

Now, I have a lot of respect for Mr. Justice, and the reason I have such respect for him is that he’s getting nothing out of this politically. Becoming a governor does nothing for him. He has a great quality of life. He’s a billionaire. He’s run multiple companies. He’s doing it because he genuinely wants to help the lives of West Virginians. He’s doing it because he has the knowledge base from his past business experience to turn a state around and run it properly. Very few politicians have any type of business acumen.

In Singapore, you have to own and operate a business for 10 years before you’re allowed into politics, but that’s not the case here in the U.S. People get into politics without ever doing anything, and so they don’t know how to run a business. A government, whether it’s a state or the United States government, is one of the biggest businesses, and Jim Justice has that type of experience to do that. For him to run for office, to become governor, there is no self-motivation here. He gets nothing out of that, other than, because his heart is so big, he wants to help West Virginians have a better quality of life, have better jobs, have better healthcare, have better opportunities, and I just have the ultimate respect for somebody like that.

They’re gonna take you away from me in about one minute, so let me get two quick questions in. With you not in the field, do you feel comfortable naming a favorite, your favorite to win?

I think Bubba Watson’s gonna be a huge favorite because he lives here, and I think that having that, even though the course is pretty…

I meant the U.S. Open, not the Greenbrier Classic!

Oh, the U.S. Open.

Yes.

I don’t know who to pick for the U.S. Open because I have not been to Erin Hills. I don’t know who a favorite is. It favors kind of the hot hand, the hot player, I would guess, would be in contention, but I don’t know who I would end up picking.

I played it. I didn’t do well.

No, but you’re not even in the field. You’re like me. You can’t win if you don’t play.

Yeah, I missed the qualifier. Last question. I always ask this question of all-time greats and I get some surprising answers. What would you rather win the Grand Slam of golf, an Oscar, the Nobel Prize, or a $50 million lottery?

Well, the only one that is appealing to me at all is the Grand Slam of Golf, and I’m one win away with the U.S. Open. That’s the only thing that, out of the things that you named, that is something that is appealing to me.

Go out and get her. I know we won’t see you in the U.S. Open this year, but we look forward to seeing you out there for many others.

Thanks.

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Williams has a reputation as a savvy broadcaster, and as an incisive interviewer and writer. An avid golfer himself, Williams has covered the game of golf and the golf lifestyle including courses, restaurants, travel and sports marketing for publications all over the world. He is currently working with a wide range of outlets in traditional and electronic media, and has produced and hosted “Sticks and Stones” on the Fox Radio network, a critically acclaimed show that combined coverage of the golf world with interviews of the Washington power elite. His work on Newschannel8’s “Capital Golf Weekly” and “SportsTalk” have established him as one of the area’s most trusted sources for golf reporting. Williams has also made numerous radio appearances on “The John Thompson Show,” and a host of other local productions. He is a sought-after speaker and panel moderator, he has recently launched a new partnership with The O Team to create original golf-themed programming and events. Williams is a member of the United States Golf Association and the Golf Writers Association of America.

17 Comments

17 Comments

  1. Bob Jones

    Jun 9, 2017 at 2:17 pm

    Anyone who thinks that a government is really a business has no idea about how governments of necessity must operate. What an idiot.

    • Michael

      Jun 9, 2017 at 3:18 pm

      So Phil is an idiot because you decided so based on that statement about businessmen and holding office? I think you should look in the mirror before the next time you call someone an idiot.

  2. freeze

    Jun 9, 2017 at 7:25 am

    really deep interview learn alot about phil, wow great stuff

  3. ooffa

    Jun 9, 2017 at 6:37 am

    Run for office? How? Is he going to say “sorry I can’t make it to that critical budget meeting I have to go to my kids dance recital”? The kind of flippant attitude he has towards his job won’t fly when the taxpayers are footing the bill!

    • freeze

      Jun 9, 2017 at 11:12 am

      Lets run for office and have my private exposed. From betting to taxes to whats in between.

  4. Duk Koo Kim

    Jun 9, 2017 at 6:33 am

    and a rich white guy at that…….allegedly. tax isha’s could be a problem as well. enough overweight

    gray dudes in Washington at this time.

  5. Frankie

    Jun 8, 2017 at 3:45 pm

    To the last question, Phil should’ve replied “You’re a smart guy, right?”

  6. Brian

    Jun 8, 2017 at 3:24 pm

    Phil’s a damned dirty republican, anyway. We don’t need more of them in office.

    • Tom1

      Jun 8, 2017 at 11:06 pm

      he hangs his underware out on the clothes line to dry just like all the rest of us.

  7. TheCityGame

    Jun 8, 2017 at 2:53 pm

    If only the US could be more like Singapore.

    • baddomes

      Jun 8, 2017 at 4:56 pm

      Dumb. Who are you, anyway?

      • George

        Jun 9, 2017 at 12:29 am

        The US needs to base its political structure like that of singapores. Seems like the “business man” in American politics is doing great right now……..

  8. JR

    Jun 8, 2017 at 1:03 pm

    Another bozo with the “government should be run like a buisness” crap

    • ROY

      Jun 8, 2017 at 1:46 pm

      Another bozo with no understanding of the concept of “limited resources”

  9. Markallister

    Jun 8, 2017 at 11:19 am

    i do not like the golfer mickelson.

    • BZ

      Jun 8, 2017 at 12:17 pm

      Because he is TEAM TIGER!

    • Tom1

      Jun 8, 2017 at 11:08 pm

      don’t corner then try to tame a rattle snake…lol just go with the fact they are wild and angry.

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Opinion & Analysis

The History of Course Design is Yours to Play at Oglebay

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There is a much-talked about “New Golden Age” of golf course design underway that is driven by demand for ever-more spectacular courses at the top end of the resort golf market. Destinations such as Streamsong, Bandon Dunes, Cabot Links, Sand Valley and others provide the traveling golfer a spectacular golf experience; unfortunately, it comes at a price tag that is equally spectacular. When a week playing golf in Florida can cost as much as a week in Scotland, where do you go for a golf getaway that doesn’t require a second mortgage?

Oglebay Golf Resort in Wheeling, West Virginia, doesn’t just provide an affordable golf vacation option; with its three golf courses, it provides players the chance to experience a condensed history of American golf course design through its three courses. The resort sits on land that was once owned by a wealthy industrialist and is now a part of the city park system. Located about an hour from Pittsburgh, Oglebay draws the majority of its golfers from Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio, Virginia and West Virginia. It’s kind of cool that when you drive to Oglebay from the Washington, D.C., you hit all of those states except Ohio, which is just a few minutes away from Wheeling. The area is especially picturesque in the autumn months when the changing colors of the leaves are at their peak.

The property has a rich history in the business and sporting history of West Virginia, but the three golf courses, Crispin, are a special prize that taken together form a primer on the history of golf design in the past 90 years. The 5,670-yard Crispin course is a one-off design by local golf enthusiast Robert Biery that was completed in 1930 and is a fascinating study of design techniques of that era. The slopes and elevation are severe and extreme by today’s standards. A clue was the raised eyebrow of the assistant pro when I said that I would walk the course. Uneven lies are the order of the day, the product of a time when there was neither the money nor equipment readily available to create gentle slopes and even surfaces; the course is true to the original contours of the West Virginia hillside.  There is little relief on the greens, which run a little slower than typical greens but make up for it in size and slope. It is by far the shortest of the three courses but the par-4 8th hole and par-5 9th holes are a thousand yards of joy and pain.

Hole No. 6 at the Klieves course

The Klieves Course is a 6,800-yard, par-71 Arnold Palmer design that was completed in 2000. The design features broad fairways, mildly undulating greens and opportunities for heroics on short par-4’s, all the prototypical characteristics of modern resort golf courses. While some architects choose to torture and torment, Palmer courses put a premium on fun and this one is no exception. The par-5, 515 yard 6th is a great example of the risk/reward available without that challenges the resort golfer without the need to humiliate. The course is very well maintained tee to green, and you’ll want to keep a fully charged battery to take photos of the vistas from the elevated tee boxes.

Hole No. 13 at the Jones course

In my humble opinion, the true gem is the Robert Trent Jones course. The 7,004-yard, par-72 Course carries a healthy 75.1 rating/141 slope from the back tees. It utilizes a gorgeous piece of land that meanders across the West Virginia hills to give a mesmerizing collection of holes that are equal parts scenery and challenge. Both nines start from elevated tee boxes hitting down into valleys that offer classic risk/reward propositions. Usually I have no problem identifying a favorite hole or two, but on this course it’s difficult. Having said that, the stretch of No. 4 (par 3, 193 yards), No. 5 (par-5, 511 yards) and No. 6 (par-4, 420 yards) are among the best I have played anywhere as a show of nature’s beauty and the at of laying out a golf hole. And the four par 3’s are not the place to pic up an easy birdie. The only one less that 190 yards from the tips is the 158-yard 15th, which is protected by a small, undulating green. All in all, it’s a perfect representation of the genius of Robert Trent Jones.

The golf is good at Oglebay and the prices are better. You can get in 18 at the Oglebay courses for as little as $32…on the weekend. And when you’re not playing golf, you can take advantage of the myriad of outdoor sports activities, tour the Oglebay mansion, hit the spa or visit the Glass Museum on the property (I promise it’s a lot more interesting than it sounds). There’s a lot of great new golf resorts out there and that’s a good thing for the golf industry, but destinations like Oglebay prove that there’s a lot of life left in the old classics as well.

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Two Guys Talkin’ Golf: “Are pro golfers actually underpaid?”

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Equipment expert Brian Knudson and GolfWRX editor Andrew Tursky argue whether PGA Tour players are actually underpaid or not. They also discuss Blades vs. Cavity backs, Jordan Spieth vs. Justin Thomas and John Daly’s ridiculous 142 mph clubhead speed.

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Legend Rees Jones speaks on designing Danzante Bay in Mexico

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Hall-of-Fame golf course architect Rees Jones talks about his newest course design, Danzante Bay at Villa Del Palmar in Mexico. Also, Jeff Herold of TRS Luggage has an exclusive holiday discount offer for GolfWRX listeners!

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