PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Save the black balloons, as if such a stain could cloud an otherwise chamber-of-commerce day along the Monterey Peninsula. Philip Alfred Mickelson turned 40 on Wednesday.
Seems like just yesterday the confident southpaw was swinging hard and collecting PGA Tour titles like he had something to prove. The middle-aged man is still swinging hard and still playing like he has something to prove.
Like the rest of us, Lefty has realized forty-something creeps up on you – like gray hair and love handles. The swashbuckling kid who won a Tour event as an amateur was asked on Tuesday the difference between the 30-year-old version and the current model?
As a gift to himself Lefty took the big day off. From Pebble Beach and the U.S. Open, that is, not golf. Instead of grinding to prepare for the 110th U.S. Open, he was grinning just down 17 Mile Drive at storied Cypress Point.
Not a bad “bucket list” afternoon for us schlubs whose closest encounter with Cypress Point will be in glossy magazine pictures, but when your closet has bookend green jackets and a PGA Championship high card, 18 at Cypress Point is an appetizer.
Now, we’re not saying Mickelson is a difficult man to buy for, but the list of previous gifts he’s received includes a fossilized dinosaur head and a chunk of meteorite.
The man who has everything, really does. So in the spirit of last-minute-gift-giving we’ve come up with a list of possible birthday options.
*The rest of the dinosaur, because no house is complete without a to-scale T-Rex greeting visitors at the front door.
*A quarterback for his beloved San Diego Chargers, because – let’s be honest – the avid sports fan has suffered enough at the hands of Padres.
*.55 World Ranking points, because he’s been closing the gap on Tiger Woods for the better part of a year but it seems the last few tenths of a point are the hardest.
*A Winged Foot mulligan, because no man should ever have to utter the phrase “I am such an idiot” in front of a group of reporters unless he is an idiot, and Mickelson is not.
*Pine straw, instead of rough, down the sides of every fairway he plays, because the man made absolute magic from the junk adjacent Augusta National’s 13th hole this year.
*Seventy-hole major championships, because sometimes the golf gods simply lose interest after 72 (see 2006 Winged Foot, 2009 Bethpage Opens).
*A driver he can hit straight, because the one that got crooked at Augusta National will not work this week at Pebble Beach.
*Any driver at all, because that no-driver experiment at the Torrey Pines Open was never going to work on the championship’s longest venue.
*The services of Dave Stockton Sr. two years earlier, because imagine the possibilities had the game’s putting guru gotten an earlier start.
*An even shorter backswing, because from abbreviated actions come major championships.
*A Krispy Kreme franchise to call his own, because the guy loves his Krispy Kremes.
*An Open rewards program, because five runners-up at the national championship should be good for one freebie.
Of course, in a perfect world the health of Mickelson’s wife, Amy, and mother, Marry – both of whom were diagnosed with breast cancer – would be the best gift. But then that emotional snapshot from Sunday at Augusta National is still vivid. Amy Mickelson has not closed out the disease just yet, but if the road to good health is paved with smiles it’s just a matter of time.
So, the answer, it seems, appears obvious. For the man that has everything save the one title that has so painfully eluded him, maybe even haunted him, we put a neat bow on a U.S. Open bottle cap. And, as fate would have it, a table just opened up at the game’s most coveted gathering spot. Open seating, starting on Sunday at Pebble Beach.