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Phil Mickelson: A Hated Man?

The golfer is loved by fans, but is he disliked by other tour pros?

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Phil Mickelson thumb's up sign

Phil Mickelson flashes that grin and his thumbs-up sign.

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  • Jan. 26, 2006 - Phil Mickelson is one of the three most popular golfers in the world with spectators. Only Tiger Woods and John Daly match Mickelson in the level of adulation heaped on him by golf fans. The fans love Lefty.

    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.

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