Dear Phil Mickelson: Please stop apologizing.
Indeed, Phil Mickelson needs a new public relations advisor, and it might as well be me. Phil needs to quit apologizing for the U.S. Open at Winged Foot and start pushing back at those who keep fitting him for hair shirts. It’s gotten so bad that Phil himself authors the following sentence in his latest instruction piece in Golf Digest: “But the U.S. Open proved I needed to work on some things in my swing.” Phil, you are the last person who should be actively reminding us about Winged Foot. You say the article was probably ghostwritten? I don’t care. Lefty needs to seize control of his image. If he’s being advised at the moment, I believe that he is being ill advised.
I hate to pile on Phil, but unlike people who pile on Phil for the sport of it, I’m piling on because I want to put and end to the piling on. I mean that in all sincerity.
In one of dozens of recent features revisiting Mickelson’s travails, Athlon’s 2006 Golf Annual quotes him as saying, “Well, I’m not going to ever forget that. I think many people who watched it probably won’t either.”
Phil, you’re not helping. If you forget it, we might, too.
Basically, what Phil needs is a script, and he needs to stick to the script. Here’s an example: Phil, you must still be sick about Winged Foot, right? “The U.S. Open is behind me, and as the #3 ranked golfer in the world, I’m quite confident about my game at the moment.” But Phil, there’s a perception that… “As the #3 ranked golfer in the world, the only perception I’m worried about is my own…” Okay, Phil, but even you called yourself an “idiot” after Winged foot! “I’ve put the U.S. Open is behind me. As the #3 ranked golfer in the world….”
Do you get my drift? Phil needs to get a message and then stay on message. Quit being defined and start defining. Personally, I think Phil is getting a raw deal from the media, but that doesn’t absolve him from the responsibility of taking corrective action.
So what does this have to do with putting? Well, by all accounts, Phil Mickelson is a gambler, both on and off the course. He is also said to be a bit of a pompous know-it-all at times. Yet whenever he’s on camera or behind a microphone, he’s all smiles and self deprecation and “aww shucks.” Like Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees—and unlike Tiger Woods or Derek Jeter—Phil Mickelson is conflicted. Like many of us, Phil is a people pleaser, a personality type that is admirable in theory yet problematic in practice, especially when you’re in the limelight.
In other words, Phil is haunted by his inner critic, which in turn leads to a lack of confidence—and lack of confidence is death on the putting green. I believe that we can learn something about ourselves by analyzing Lefty’s predicament. Fortunately for us, we can learn this lesson in private. The lesson is that a compulsive need to please others is a deeply rooted personality issue that can wreak personal and physical havoc, including on the putting green.
I will delve into this mindbody subject more deeply in the near future. In the meantime, and for starters, I recommend that you listen to the recent interview with Dr. Rico Provasoli on Fred Greene’s Golf Smarter Podcast. It’s not only a golf lesson, it’s a life lesson in silencing your inner critic, the same critic that can keep me, you and Phil Mickelson from reaching our full potential.