Phil Mickelson made the cut at the Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit this week, but he’s not in contention for a win.
He is making headlines though, and unlike the PGA Championship a few weeks ago, it’s not because of his play. Rather, it’s because of a feud between Mickelson and Detroit News reporter Robert Snell. on a story related to the game which happened this week, timed with the PGA Tour stop at the Detroit Golf Club.
Mickelson went on the offensive Thursday, accusing the newspaper and Snell himself of essentially a timed character attack to do maximum damage, as opposed to, you know, reporting a factual story.
Phil went so far as to essentially state that he would never return to Detroit because of this, trying to put any economic loss that might occur on Snell’s conscience.
.@PhilMickelson said he would not return for the Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit. He loves the fans and what Rocket is doing in the city, but…
Mickelson said this week’s Detroit News story about a 2007 incident with a Grosse Pointe bookie was “very opportunistic and selfish.” pic.twitter.com/GcZ5OOONeU
—Brad Galli (@BradGalli) July 1, 2021
Mickelson is no stranger to speaking without thinking, of course, or at least without thinking about all the consequences. By addressing this the way he did, he shed light on the topic that otherwise certainly wouldn’t have resonated outside of Detroit. Sure, some golf podcasts may have cracked jokes about it, but the details aren’t new to anyone familiar with Mickelson’s long history with the game. He came arguably worse unscathed scandalsand has three decades of goodwill with the vast majority of golf fans and sports personalities.
Perhaps realizing his mistake, Mickelson then spent a few days doing the worst thing anyone could do right now: read and respond voraciously on Twitter. This included responding to someone who noted a change.org petition asking him to come back; he went above and beyond that, however, and said he would indeed return as long as everyone who signed promised an act of kindness. Seriously, That is what he said.
“People were awesome and they were so nice, so I’ll say this, I don’t want it to be divisive,” Mickelson said Friday. “I didn’t like what I felt with the journalist. The people here were so nice that I’m going to make a deal with them. There’s a guy, Mike Sullivan, trying to collect 50,000 signatures. If he gets 50,000 and all of those 50,000 agree to do a random act of kindness for another community member, I’m in.
The petition had nearly 5,000 signatures by early Saturday morning.
“I just think this tournament has sponsors, from Rocket Mortgage to a lot of local sponsors to a lot of people in the community trying to come together and do something good for the community,” Mickelson said. “And if the community members come together, I would love to be back. But what I will not tolerate is that kind of divisive attitude from this particular journalist. It’s just not helpful to anyone.
Mickelson returned to Twitter on Saturday after offering these quotes to mention the reporter again with an ax to rectify the angle he himself is convinced is the problem:
Usually when a negative piece is printed I let it go, it’s gone in a day and I just don’t come back. This week I called RobSnell for a 23 year old story he sat on for 3 years? Or a month? because his self-serving opportunism undermines many people here at Det who are trying to help others.
— Phil Mickelson (@PhilMickelson) July 3, 2021
He also hinted that he also told Snell about it, although he was apparently unhappy with the explanation.
— Phil Mickelson (@PhilMickelson) July 3, 2021
This is, of course, silly; the story was recently discovered and of course it is more relevant to publish it this week, anyway, for a Detroit newspaper. It’s not even really a negative story about Phil either; everyone knows he already toys his ass all the time and nobody cares. Sports betting currently powers half of the sports media, it seems. No one would really flinch except for Mickelson’s decision to make it a much bigger thing.
☝️ This was unreported (they stumbled across it last month) and was locally relevant, factually accurate, not particularly negative, let alone “divisive” (???)
Basically a slightly interesting little story…until Phil’s rude answer pic.twitter.com/wPoTOFHYhv
— @Messenger (@GolfOutsider) July 3, 2021
Mickelson’s brilliant strategy of both implying in a self-important way that he’s responsible for having a major economic impact in Detroit AND that he’d take it down because of a reporter’s accurate reporting didn’t carry over. its fruits. To his limited credit (given his gambling history, he might be used to getting limited credit), he seems to have realized this and is trying to change course.
His new course: tweet through. It’s almost never wise, and it certainly isn’t here. In the end, Mickelson won’t suffer any lasting damage, like everything else. If he somehow finds himself in contention at the Open Championship in a few weeks, he will still be cheered on by most observers.
But it’s all about the standing record, and at 51, Mickelson’s record is coming to an end. Golfers are already getting away with some of the softest coverage imaginable, but they still can’t cope with what they’re getting. From Bryson DeChambeau pleading with the networks to protect his brand and refusing to speak to the media this weekend after his caddy left him, to Mickelson unable to help himself and attracting the kind of negative attention he had imagined was already there to start with, to Justin Thomas refusing to wear a mic during a round (then getting caught using a gay slur), to DMCA content from the PGA Tour left and right at the request of players and agents.
I love golf, more than anyone I know, and even I’m really sick of seeing super rich guys pretending to be overcharged victims when asked to own, explain or even to comment on their documented actions and behaviors. It’s hard enough to sit through all the ads as they are.