But his peers do not - at least, that's the claim made in a GQ magazine article entitled "The Ten Most Hated Athletes." It's a surprise to see someone whose public persona is so cheerful, someone who is so loved by fans, show up on a list like that. But there Mickelson is, at No. 8 "most hated" by his peers, the magazine claims.
Here's what the magazine's article says about how Mickelson is viewed by his peers:
"Last August at the PGA Championship at Baltusrol, in New Jersey, a reporter turned to a golfer on the tour and said of Phil Mickelson, 'Man, the fans here love Phil.' The golfer replied, 'They don't know him the way we do.' It blew our minds a little when we heard this, since Mickelson ranks among the most admired golfers in America. But today the same reporter makes his case bluntly: 'Phil Mickelson literally has no friends out there. He annoys everybody.'
"Mickelson has earned many nicknames on the Tour, but our favorite is FIGJAM ... 'There are a bunch of pros who think he and his whole smiley, happy face are a fraud,' another reporter says. 'They think he's preening and insincere.' "
Notice those ellipses after "FIGJAM"? The GQ article explained what that stands for, but it contains a word we can't reproduce here. But the five words following that first word are: "I'm good - just ask me."
Of course, some of the anti-Phil feeling on Tour - however much of that might actually exist - may stem from the fact that Mickelson is better than all but 2-3 other guys out there, and that he is truly loved by fans. On the other hand, this behind-the-scenes chatter has been consistent throughout Mickelson's career.
Update: The post above was written in January of 2006, and this update was written in April of 2010 - in the aftermath of Mickelson's third win in The Masters; in the midst of his wife's (and mother's) battle with breast cancer; in the aftermath of the Tiger Woods scandals.
I didn't take a position about Mickelson in the original post above; I don't know him, after all. But I think Phil looks better all the time, especially as his youthful insouciance turns into middle-aged wit. It's certainly true that Mickelson rubs some of his peers and some golf fans the wrong way; his sense of humor doesn't always come off the right way. That goofy grin and happy veneer convince some that Mickelson isn't sincere. Call it the "goody two-shoes" syndrome.
But I think something Hunter Mahan said about Mickelson is very instructive. Mahan - unlike you and me - does know Mickelson. And Mahan once said this: "I remember when I came on tour. Guys told me he's a phony or a fake or whatever. Then I met him, and he's not phony, he's just kind of goofy."
That's instructive for two reasons: It shows us that relatively recently (Mahan hasn't been around that long) some of Mickelson's peers were warning rookies about him; and it shows us that Mahan, at least, took the time to find out for himself and decided the Tour gossip wasn't true.
As I said above, I can understand why Mickelson rubs some people the wrong way, but I also think Phil looks better all the time. I take him at face value, and always enjoy watching him play golf.