The Most Entertaining Man on TV

By Mercer BaggsJuly 15, 2007, 4:00 pm
You dont have to like Phil Mickelson to enjoy watching him play. You just have to enjoy golf ' and roller-coasters and figurative train wrecks.
For sheer excellence, nobody beats Tiger Woods. For sheer entertainment, Mickelson gets the nod.
Phil Mickelson
Phil Mickelson reacts to his playoff loss in Scotland. (Getty Images)
Mickelson catches a ton of flack from fans and even his peers. Hes too aggressive, too erratic, too stubborn, too frustrating, too goofy, too fake. Maybe so, but theres no person more fun to watch coming down the stretch than Mickelson.
Case in point: Sunday at the Barclays Scottish Open, where he finished birdie, bogey, birdie, bogey, birdie, bogey to fall into a playoff with Frenchman Gregory Havret. In the extra session, he pushed a drive into the weeds which led to another bogey, and a loss.
It was classic Mickelson. Kind of like listening to a Fred Couples interview ' you had no earthly idea what direction he was going in.
After bogeying the 16th, Mickelson seemingly wrapped up the tournament by converting a lovely 25-foot birdie putt at 17. The third-ranked player in the world with a one-shot lead over the 320th-ranked player in the world, game over ' unless, of course, that third-ranked player has the name Mickelson on his bag.
Despite it all, Mickelson had a chance to win the tournament. He had a 15-footer for par on the final hole of regulation for victory, but it slid past the cup. He then had about 3 feet coming back for bogey.
Now normally, Havret would have been counting up his scorecard at this moment, making sure all of the numbers were right. He would have simply assumed that his opponent was going to make the short putt and they would be off to sudden death.
But not when your opponent is Phil Mickelson.
When the cameras turned on Havret, he wasnt looking at his scorecard. He wasnt even looking at Mickelson. He couldnt stand to watch, so he had to turn away. He knew that there was a chance Mickelson might miss, because with Mickelson, everything is a possibility.
The putt might go in. It might lip out. It might miss by two inches and run 5 feet past. All are legitimate outcomes; weve seen them all before.

And that is what makes Mickelson so very entertaining to watch, because with Mickelson there are no guarantees.
You can say that about any professional player, but Mickelson isnt just any professional. To borrow from Michelle Wie, hes Phil Freakin Mickelson. Only one player on the planet has more talent than does he; and at times Mickelson makes that an arguable statement.
Watching Mickelson play the final holes of a tournament with a chance to win is better than any reality TV youll ever see. Hes not playing to the cameras; there is no hidden agenda; and there certainly isnt a script.
With Mickelson you have to take the Dr. Jekyll with the Mr. Hyde, and usually youre going to see both in every round he plays.
This is the second time this year, and the second time since his collapse at Winged Foot, that Mickelson has had a one-shot lead entering the 72nd hole of an event, made bogey to force a playoff, and then lost that playoff. He did so earlier at the Nissan Open.
It will be interesting to see how this most recent loss affects Mickelsons confidence heading into the Open Championship at Carnoustie. As much as hell try to put a positive spin on it, there has to be some doubt in his mind as to if he can close out a major championship should he put himself in position to do so.
Or maybe that doubts just in my mind.
Either way, heres to hoping that he gets that opportunity. Because it doesnt matter if hes going head-to-head with Tiger Woods or Raphal Jacquelin, the real battle will be between Mickelson and himself. And I cant think of anything that would be more entertaining to watch.
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