By Nancy Armour
Phil Mickelson is right to be embarrassed.
He had four days to mull over his immature antics at the U.S. Open, and the best he could do was a half-hearted apology that could have been written by one of his minions before he’d finished the third round. Not only that, he all but acknowledged that the excuse he gave Saturday was a flat-out lie.
“I know this should’ve come sooner, but it’s taken me a few days to calm down,” Mickelson said in a text sent Wednesday morning to a few reporters. “My anger and frustration got the best of me last weekend. I’m embarrassed and disappointed by my actions. It was clearly not my finest moment and I’m sorry. “
Late is better than never when it comes to apologies, and Mickelson deserves some credit for his mea culpa. But this whole episode has revealed that Lefty is more calculated than his wide-eyed, “aw, shucks” demeanor would have everyone think.
For Mickelson, the wheels came off midway through his round, with four bogeys in a row on Nos. 8-11. Of course he was going to be frustrated. The U.S. Open is the one major standing between him and the career Grand Slam, and his list of heartbreaks in the tournament is legendary.
As far as wrongdoing goes, it was minor. Certainly not on the scale of, say, using inside information to make a killing in the stock market or racking up millions in gambling debts.
But for someone who styles himself as one of the game’s “good guys,” who can wax poetic about golf’s traditions and honor, it was the height of hypocrisy. Mickelson compounded it by claiming after the round that he had done it on purpose, preferring the two-stroke penalty to taking his chances with those diabolical greens.
“If somebody is offended by that, I apologize to them,” Mickelson said Saturday, “but toughen up because this is not meant that way.”
Imagine, however, the uproar if Tiger Woods or Bubba Watson or Patrick Reed pulled the same stunt. Or waited four days to make a proper apology. Fans would be screaming about it for weeks. Maybe a few players, too.
But Mickelson gets a pass because fans long ago decided that Lefty is just like them. That they’d be lifelong friends if they lived in the same neighborhood or their kids went to the same school. He’s Everyman, only with a better swing and five major championships.
Mickelson is one of the best players golf has ever seen, and he’s been a tremendous ambassador for the game. But he’s right. This is not his finest moment.
Nancy Armour is a columnist for USA TODAY and the 2015 winner of the United States Sports Academy’s Ronald Reagan Media Award. Used with Permission.