by Jeff Skinner
The boys at Golf Magazine took a bold step in their December issue. Going against popular thought, they named Phil Mickelson their Player of the Year.
The PGA Tour Players voted five time winner Tiger Woods as their Player of the Year but Golf Magazine incorporated a different criteria in selecting Phil. His three world wide wins, including his astounding Open Championship was enough for them to choose Phil’s flair over Tiger’s numbers.
They do pay homage to Inbee Park and her three majors and acknowledge that if a man had accomplished that he’s be praised beyond belief. But as usual, women’s golf is under appreciated. And they did consider others for their title.
We kicked other tires. Adam Scott, Justin Rose, Stacy Lewis, Lydia Ko, Matt Fitzpatrick, Bernhard Langer. All of them had remarkable years. You could make a case for any of them, and some of you surely will. You’ll cite statistics, wins, money titles. You’ll cite your positive encounters on autograph lines and at airport check-in kiosks.
But we’re going with the golfer who moved us the most, who had the most memorable year, the golfer with whom we would have most wanted to trade places in 2013. And that’s how we landed on Lefty. Phil Mickelson has been making our lives more interesting for years. His 2013 was crazily interesting, for us and for him.
It was Phil’s ability to achieve the utterly, most totally unexpected accomplishment of his career and win the Open Championship that won it for Phil.
You know how this Muirfield story ends. All through the back-nine 32 that Phil shot, on a gloomy, cool, windy Sunday, he was Hogan, Nicklaus, Watson, Woods. He was Youngest Tom Morris. The shots he played were ridiculously solid. He didn’t miss. There was no flashback to Merion. Five back when his head hit the pillow on Saturday night, he won going away, by four shots.
It’s not that he erased that Merion wound. Golf doesn’t work that way. What he did was rise above it, just as he has done with his arthritis, with his wife’s breast cancer, with his long wait for his first major, with the months and years his putting stroke went AWOL. How inspiring.
And finally, the folks at Golf.com/Golf Magazine hit the nail on the head. Golf is a game that lives in our memories and our storytelling. And Phil gives us stories…oh the stories.
Golf lends itself to storytelling. In 2013, Phil Mickelson provided us with a story the likes of which we don’t often see. It’s a story you can tell a friend without having to google a single thing. The Book of Phil, 2013, has nothing to do with missed fairways or FedEx points or funky rulings. His story this year was as simple as the game itself. Try. Fail. Regroup. Try again. You had to see it to believe it. We saw it. A 43-year-old playing like a boy and a man. It was awesome, better than anything else in a year that offered something for everyone. We’re thrilled to remember that story, and to honor its author.