As you probably know by now, Mickelson and Titleist mutually agreed last week to end his $4 million-per-year deal 16 months early after a reported renegotiation attempt failed. Early this week, Mickelson signed a greater-than-five-year deal with Callaway Golf, presumably for more than he was getting from Titleist. Mickelson has some of the Callaway gear in his new Callaway bag for this weeks Bell Canadian Open.
I get e-mails after almost every opinion column, some agreeing, others critical. But the volume of this mail, responding only to a couple of straightforward news stories, was off the charts. I stopped counting at 400.
Here are some samples (some were signed, others werent):
Do people really buy product based on what a pro says? Come on! He had a deal with one company he touted as the best, wanted a better deal even though he had signed a contract, walked away from that sponsor 16 months early, and now, a week later he says use this new product, its the best.honest!
There were plenty of others who disposed of the issue by doubting the real value of endorsements, but even more who hewed to the idea of the sanctity of a contract.
I guess Phil thinks he's a pro basketball or football player now. Titleist carried his sorry tail when he was playing up and down for three years, probably never missing a payment, and now that hes playing great and [just when] they can get a return on the $12 million they've already spent, he wants to renegotiate. Boy, what a truly class act Phil turned out to be. All he needs now is tattoos from head to toe to make the transition complete. ' Terry from Texas
Not everyone was as harsh as Terry. But there were a lot of echoes of the above.
The very least I would have expected from Phil would be to see his existing contract out; sportsmen are supposed to be role models. Demonstrations of honour, integrity and courage are what the world needs from its role models, not greed, greed and more greed. ' Justin Henzie
Just thought golf was maybe still above some of the contract shenanigans we see in other pro sports, with players holding out and wanting to renegotiate because of one good year. A contract is a contract. I wonder what Phil would have done if Titleist wanted to renegotiate his contract because of his poor play last year? Also, why change your equipment when playing so well? He's playing with fire.
Most fans of the sport are not impressed with athletes who demand renegotiation of their contracts on the basis of one good year. Did Titleist demand to renegotiate when Phil had a non-winning year in 2003? He should have seen his contract through. Also, Phil has played the best golf of his life with Titleist equipment. How many players have switched equipment, only to falter badly after doing so? Now, next year when Phil comes up short in a few events, everyone (including him) will be wondering if the equipment or balls had something to do with it. From the gallery, it just doesn't seem like this was the right time to do this. ' Dave Jarvis, Syracuse, N.Y.
Looks like somebody is being greedy. He didn't seem to mind getting his 4 million a year when he wasn't winning the Masters, but now in mid-stream he can just demand more money. I thought professional golfers had more class than the typical NFL, MLB, or NBA stars! ' Paul Abdullah, Jacksonville, Fla.
As for me I am going out and buying new Titleist clubs this week and will never put a Callaway product in my bag again. ' Tim Johnson Tampa, Florida
Some were worried about Leftys timing:
Well...why not? After all, he finally got his game to where he used common sense and started winning. Why not go to a different company 16 months before you need to and have to go through the process of starting all over again; isn't that the way Phil operates, outside the box of common sense? What will he do next, start hitting his driver on every par 4 again? It's like, 'Lookie, I can hit a ball 320 yards! Maybe out of play, but look what I can do!' I like Phil a lot but have we not come to expect this type of behavior from him? I can't believe he'd pull a stunt like this just before the Ryder Cup. Yes I can. ' Michael Dent
Others took a more economic view:
We must remember these golf guys are independent contractors. They are self-employed. No play no pay. Any kind of muscular/skeletal injury or illness can mean end of career. Professional sports is not a game. It is a business. So the professionals must look out for their best interests first. I don't see this as greed, but good business tactics. Any business person should be doing the same to protect their interests and further the opportunities of their company. ' Jack Viskil, San Diego
And some insisted that Titleist, not Phil, bungled the situation:
I really think Titleist has made a huge mistake! Phil is THE poster boy for a great brand.
Thought they learned their lesson the last time they let Sign Boy go.
Some were just disheartened:
I suppose the real reason I am sad is I don't like to have my fantasy bubble burst, particularly by one of the players in my fantasy. ' Sadly, Guy Howard
What does all this say about big-time golf? Perhaps only that even in an election year, in a country at war, with baseball heating up and football getting started, people still find time to make themselves heard about golf and golfers. And this website is a golf fan destination, so perhaps its not surprising that the response was so voluminous.
But what if it says something else? Many of these people held golf above other sports in a moral sense; the PGA Tour and other organizations have been capitalizing on that esteem with sponsors for years now. But how about the guy who wont buy Callaway now? Or the one for whom endorsements are meaningless because of the effect of players switching?
And how about the one who was such a Mickelson fan that hes downright sad? The intimations that Mickelsons behavior, or that of his handlers, was unworthy of an honorable game?
It doesnt matter whether the allegations contained in the questions above are true or not. The real issue is, what will be the effect of people thinking those allegations are true?
Golf may never be like Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, or the National Football League. But if people believe it can be, the damage, whatever it will be, is done.
Email your thoughts to Adam Barr