Did anyone catch Phil Mickelson’s comments on NBC after Sunday’s final round in the Shell Houston Open? I believe it was Jimmy Roberts who interviewed Phil and asked him how he felt since he was close but couldn’t close the deal in Houston. He added were there any takeaways that Phil could share about his game heading into next week’s Masters? Phil indicated that he basically mismanaged his game on purpose so he could hit some tee shots under game conditions that he would need next week at Augusta. He added that if he were trying to win at Houston, he would have played more 3-woods instead of drivers off the tee because the fairways narrow considerably around 300 yards. He said the reason for this was that he was preparing for the cut tee shots with the driver he’d need on several holes at The Masters, most notably on #13. Phil was actually using this tournament as four practice rounds for Augusta.
When I first heard this I thought, “Phil is a smart guy; he knows how to prep for a major and that’s why he’s already won three Masters.” Then while I was enjoying the aftermath of Jim Herman’s hard fought one-shot victory over Henrik Stenson, I began to think; Herman and Stenson battled hard for this title, and so did Dustin Johnson. Since golf is basically self-policed, with each player calling violations on themselves and attempting to protect the field and thus the integrity of the competition, shouldn’t players in the field be obligated to try their hardest to win at all times? Not trying your hardest might skew the result in an odd way and have negative downstream effects. For example, what if on the strength of his victory, Herman made the Ryder Cup team. If Phil had played to win and defeated Herman, someone else may have made the team.
In organized team sports, at the end of the season, teams sometimes rest their star players; I get that. However, I’ve never heard the players on the field in any sport admitting to not giving anything less than 100% effort to try and win. And this was certainly not a case of easing off the gas at the end of a blow out game so as to not run up the score on an opponent. Does this strike you as odd? Even though it may be done by others, are you okay with a competitor admitting to not trying to win? I wonder how Jim Herman might feel. . . I’m a huge Phil fan but am interested to know your thoughts on this.