He’s doing it again. Because he has to – he’s Phil Mickelson.
The major golf websites are filled with videos of Lefty hitting what amount to trick shots in Las Vegas this weekend, and it’s probably the worst thing for any of us to see.
It makes us think we can do that.
Ever since Mickelson became known for his amazing ability to hit the ball out of any kind of lie, plenty of amateurs – you know who you are – have been emulating him. I count myself in that group. It’s called “pulling a Mickelson.”
It’s always the same story.
I’ve hit a ridiculous shot that has put me in a heap of trouble. But I find the ball amid bushes and rocks and all sorts of junk.
My first instinct, every time, is to look for a way out that isn’t just a give-up sideways chip back to the fairway. I want to hit it around that bush and over that tree and across that water to the green.
Every once in awhile, I pull off a miracle. But most of the time I just put myself in worse trouble and grumble that I need to stop trying those shots. It’s an addiction.
But then I see Mickelson at TPC Summerlin hitting a shot off gravel right next to the cart path and sending it around a tree and toward the green.
I see him using a driver (yes, a DRIVER) to hit his ball from out of a bush and getting it over the trees in front of him.
And even though I know that there is no way I could ever hit those shots, I still deposit those images in my memory bank in case I’m in similar predicaments – which I most certainly will be at some point.
I realize that one of two things needs to happen here.
Either Phil needs to stop doing that. Right now. Immediately. Forever. Just stop it. Just stop tempting us mortals.
Or I need to change my ways. Right now. Immediately. Forever.
Both seem impossible.
There is temptation all around us in our great game. It’s just as bad to see a playing partner pull off a shot like that. In fact, that’s worse because it’s not like pulling a Mickelson – you think you’re as good as they are.
Maybe the most remarkable recovery shot I’ve ever seen came when I was caddying as a teenager. One of the guys in the group hit his drive to a spot right behind a small bush sitting by itself in the rough. He had a backswing but no follow-through.
The only option, as far as I could see, was to just punch it back to the fairway, but he wasn’t thinking that way. He took a full swing and let go of the club right at impact to avoid breaking the shaft or his wrists. Unbelievably, the ball came out of there like a normal shot and landed on the green.
After having that image burned in my brain, I did the only logical thing: I went to the range and tried to do it. And failed miserably. Of course. How on earth did he do that? I still don’t know.
And yet, being the addict I am, I still keep channeling my inner Mickelson. It takes only one success to blur the pages and pages of failures.
I never want to go under a tree; my first look is always to go over or around it. (Or as one friend playfully suggested, I want to hit the ball right through the trunk.)
I never want to take an unplayable lie; I want to advance the ball forward at least a few yards. So, of course, I whiff and THEN have to take an unplayable. Brilliant.
I never want to just punch the ball to a safe spot to the left or right of the water; I want to go over the water and act as if it’s not there. Soggy thinking, for sure.
The first step, of course, is admitting that there’s a problem. OK, I admit it. Boy, do I ever admit it.
But what am I going to do about it? Probably nothing. Blame it on Phil. He’s the one who keeps pulling a Mickelson. He’s the one who’s like a bartender who looks at the drunk and says, “Your glass is empty. Can I pour you another?”
We just can’t resist. We’re simply in love with a game that presents such great risks and even greater rewards.
Because even when those shots don’t work, they’re still fun. Ridiculous. But that’s golf.