Phil Mickelson Dropping Bombs At AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am

Prior To The Start Of The AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, Phil Mickelson's Comments About The U.S. Open Caused Some Intrigue. Lefty Is Seen Here At The 2015 U.S. Open Held At Chambers Bay In WA. - Image Credit Bryan Outram/BC Golf

By Alfie Lau

This was supposed to begin with some notes on how 5 Canadian golfers are making a big impact at the 2020 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. From being paired with celebrity chefs to a famous entertainer to the editor-in-chief of one of golf’s most important publications, this was going to be a Canadian-centric article.

And then Phil Mickelson walked into the media centre early Wednesday morning and dropped some bombs.

When asked if he has any plans for the U.S. Open at Winged Foot, especially if he is offered a special exemption by the USGA, Mickelson left little room for interpretation. “I won’t accept it,” said Mickelson. “I am either going to get in the field on my own or I’ll have to try to qualify. I’m not going to take a special exemption.”

He elaborated, leaving no room for misinterpretation. “I don’t want a special exemption. I think I’ll get in the tournament. If I get in, I deserve to be there. If I don’t, I don’t. I don’t want a sympathy spot. If I am good enough to make it and qualify, then I need to earn my spot there.”

No less controversial was how he felt about the U.S. Senior Open, the first Champions Tour event he will be eligible for once he turns 50 in June. Asked if he had any interest in playing there or whether winning would bring a certain level of satisfaction, Mickelson was unequivocal: “None whatsoever, no.”

That answer so flummoxed Associated Press reporter Doug Ferguson that he said he wished he had a follow-up question, but he didn’t after that response. And if those two bombs weren’t enough, Mickelson had already thrown the R&A and USGA under the bus minutes earlier when asked after the distance report those organizations released on Tuesday.

“I struggle with some of our governing bodies. I struggle with it because we’re the only sport, we’re the only professional sport in the world that is governed by a group of amateurs, and that leads to some questionable directions. I wish that we had people that are involved in the sport professionally to be in charge a little bit more,” said Mickelson.

Read that last paragraph again and you’ll see why Mike Davis and Martin Slumbers will not be receiving Christmas cards from Phil this year. Mickelson seems comfortable with his place in the world, everything from skipping Phoenix last week so that he could play in Saudi Arabia, to taking potshots at the people charged with making The Rules of Golf, to even taking shots at his own lackluster performance in the last 12 months.

Mickelson is the defending champion at Pebble Beach, but you wouldn’t know it by his lack of results since that Monday finish win last year. “After I won last year, I knew I was going to go out and just crush the rest of the year and the rest of the year just crushed me. Kind of reversed it, I did not play well, I didn’t play up to my level of expectation, and it just kind of snowballed and got worse.”

How can you not write a decent article with the material Mickelson was throwing our way early Wednesday morning. Not only did Mickelson arrive early – we joked it was like the old days of the New York Giants where coach Tom Coughlin started meetings 10 minutes early because that was on time to him – he gave us enough talking points to last the entire week.

Mickelson is paired with Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young and that isn’t even anywhere near the biggest or most famous groups that will tee off Thursday to Saturday on the rota of Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill and Monterey Peninsula (Shore). Brothers and Super Bowl quarterbacks Eli and Peyton Manning will be with their respective partners Kevin Chappell and Luke Donald.

The longtime foursome of Wayne Gretzky and Dustin Johnson partnered with Jake Owen and Jordan Spieth is intact, while Tony Romo with Jim Furyk and Daniel Berger with Josh Duhamel will surely see a large contingent of fans. 

BC's Adam Hadwin (L) And Nick Taylor Are Two Of The Five Canadians In The Field This Week For The AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am - Golf Canada Photo

The five Canadians in the field drew some impressive company. From least innocuous to most, we start with Ontario’s Mackenzie Hughes, paired with rich industrialist Rich Petit. We follow that with Abbotsford’s Nick Taylor, who is paired with Golf Digest editor-in-chief Jerry Tarde, along with pro Beau Hossler and TaylorMade CEO and president David Abeles.

(Taylor is a TaylorMade guy so playing with the big boss has to be big. Jon Rahm, who isn’t playing this week, normally plays with Abeles. And if Taylor and Tarde win the Pro-Am, we can expect a 10-page feature in Golf Digest highlighting Abbotsford golf and the Canadian golf reporters who cover Taylor during the West Coast Swing).

Three Canadians get into the Superstar rotation, which starts at Spyglass Thursday, goes to Monterey Peninsula Friday and continues at Pebble Beach Saturday. Ontario’s Michael Gligic gets comedian Ray Romano as his partner and their group also includes Dane Sebastian Cappelen and comedian/actor and Pebble Beach staple Larry the Cable Guy.

Abbotsford’s Adam Hadwin gets a rich Cypress Point member, Doug Mackenzie as his partner, but they will play alongside Patrick Cantlay and surfer Kelly Slater. And in the most underrated famous persons group, Ontario’s David Hearn gets celebrity chef Thomas Keller of The French Laundry as his partner, but they will be alongside pro Zac Blair and his partner, 2015 Miss America Kira Kazantsev Dixon.

On a couple of quick tours of Pebble Beach Tuesday and Wednesday, I was able to see rapper Macklemore hit some shots, and Richmond caddy Mike Darby, who used to be on Taylor’s bag before winning opposite field PGA TOUR events alongside D.A. Points and Jim Herman. Darby is working for Herman, but had an easy Tuesday because a charity bidder won the right to carry Herman’s bag during the practice round so all Darby had to do was walk along and get his yardages for Thursday.

We also came across rich industrialist George Roberts, who has a tangential Canadian connection through his longtime partnership with Mike Weir. Weir and Roberts played together for years, often starting with a Tuesday practice round at Cypress Point, but that partnership ended last year when Weir did not get into the field and Roberts found his new partner, the long-hitting Cameron Champ.

Champ and Roberts are together again this year. All the action kicks off Thursday at 8 a.m. at the 2020 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro Am.

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