Seven years later, Mickelson, still closely resembling Hollywood star Hugh Grant, by no means looks old. But the contrast was fairly stark. More angular face then. Leaner overall body. But isnt that what getting olders all about for most? Getting wiser and wider?
I will always have fat on me, Phil explained, as if he were John Candy. Theres nothing I can do about it.
Ive got subcutaneous fat, he continued.
Sub what? asked a confused reporter.
Subcutaneous, replied Phil. Beneath the skin.
A roomful of blank reporter faces(is there any other kind?) stared back, the way we do when Phils launching into an aerodynamic discussion about the new Pro V1 X, which, by the way, hes playing, along with the Titleist 983K driver.
Most people who are ripped have visceral fat, he explained. Theres nothing I can do about it. Subcutaneous fat just lies underneath the skin as opposed to underneath the muscle.
So its not really my fault Im fat? wondered the same confounded reporter, having also struggled to stay slim.
No, no thats not it, said Phil. Some people put on weight, but theyre still ripped because its underneath the muscle.
Trying to subdue the subcutaneous, Phil now works with a personal trainer, Sean Cochran, whos done a good deal with baseball pitchers. Theyre concentrating on the core. Thus, the only ball as hot as the V1 is the heavy ball guys are using in the gym these days.
Its not a fad, Phil said. Its just were learning more bio-mechanically that the down swing is started by the core muscles. And to create speed you need to create more strength.
Phils also dabbling in martial arts.
Ive always been intrigued by that, he remarked.
New workout regimen. New golf ball. New driver. Relatively new putter, which Phil admits is ugly but effective.
Its interesting, he said. I had a conversation with a player/announcer at the Buick Challenge, and he looked at my putter and said, This is ridiculous. How
can you use this?
I said, Its that mentality that has you in the booth right now. Its the inability to be open minded and try new equipment to play better and to improve that keeps players stagnant.
Phil admitted to me that its frustrating at times.
It seems like when the media talks about me, its in a negative light, he said. Its always, Phil doesnt make enough putts or Phil doesnt hit enough fairways.
I related to him that I could understand how he would be agitated and heres why. If you were one of the three best heart surgeons in the world, or one of the three best stock brokers in the world, and you were in your early 30s and worth tens of millions of dollars, wouldnt you be just a little irritated if people so closely scrutinized your methods as they do Phils? Wouldnt you say to yourself, Hey, wait a minute, Im one of the three best in the world at what I do so I think Ive got a pretty good handle on how to approach my business.
Im glad you said that, Phil told me.
And yet, this is sport, and part of sports is scrutinizing, analyzing and debating. Its what fans and pundits do.
It comes with the territory, Phil admitted.
Truth is, the microscope will be on Phil until he wins a major. In golf, fairly or unfairly, a players judged on how he performs in majors.
Looking back, Phil was critical of his performance in 2002.
Last year, he recalled, I didnt drive the ball well, period. I slipped in distance and my accuracy actually declined.
Thus, the search for answers continues.
Ive got a great driver, he emphasized. Ive got a great ball. Ive got to make the swings now. If I do, Ive got a product that will put the ball well over 300 yards and get me wedged in. If I can do that and hit the fairway, Im going to have a lot of birdies and have a great year.
A great year obviously will include, most importantly, the healthy delivery of a baby boy, due in March. Phil will play a heavy West Coast schedule, minus the Nissan, then compete at Doral, where his new endorsement partner, Ford, takes over as title sponsor. Thereafter, hell miss The Players to be with his expanding family.
I hope I can play the week before the Masters to tune up, he said. But well have to wait and see.'
By then, Phil hopes to be fit and ready, subcutaneous fat be damned.