Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Phil Mickelson: Family Comes First

If you're not familiar with golf superstar Phil Mickelson, Parade Magazine's interview is a great introduction. And even if you're not into golf, you'll find Mickelson's love affair with his wife, his dedication to his family, his resiliency, and his perspective on an amazing sports career delightfully refreshing.

In this era of golf, Mickelson’s name will always come after Tiger Woods’s. He is the anti-Tiger, though not because he’s gracefully weathered the obstacles life has thrown at him while Tiger is still stinging from self-inflicted wounds. He’s the anti-Tiger because on the course he plays a mild-mannered, sometimes bumbling Clark Kent to Woods’s Superman. And fans love him for it. He never looks chiseled, never seems invincible, and—despite 38 PGA wins—has never been No. 1 in the world. He’s been faulted for taking too long to win his first major (in his 12th year as a pro) and for making too many suicidal shots at critical moments. But throughout his nearly 20-year professional career, he has had the same caddie, the same manager, and the same wife....

Bones recalls the day in 1993 when Mickelson told him he had just met a young woman named Amy McBride: “I knew within 10 minutes that she was the woman he was going to marry.”

Mickelson kind of melts when he recalls that first meeting, which included playing tennis and talking about how neither of them wanted a serious relationship. “I tried to deny it. Three or four months later, I just knew I wanted to be with her.” After 18 years together, that’s still true. “Phil is so in love with Amy,” his mom says. “He’ll stand there just staring at her like he’s meeting her for the first time, and she’s the same way with him. It’s neat being around them.”...

Golf can be a cruel game, but Mickelson has proven his resilience. Case in point: the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot, when he stood on the final tee with a one-shot lead and proceeded to unleash a series of cringeworthy shots that resulted in a double bogey and cost him the tournament. Sheer agony, but here’s Mickelson’s story of what happened after: “My daughter Amanda and I [found a quiet] corner to snuggle, and she said, ‘Are you okay, Dad?’ and I said, ‘Well, I’m a little disappointed. This was a tournament I dreamt of winning as a kid, and I haven’t yet.’ And she said, ‘Well, second is pretty good, Dad. Can I get you a piece of pizza?’

“It was kind of a bigger-picture perspective,” he says, beaming with fatherly pride...

And for Mickelson, fun usually involves taking chances. “The reason he’s so magnetic to fans is that Phil has this beautiful flaw,” Feherty says. “He’s capable of mercurial brilliance, but at any given moment, he can make the sort of mistake the guy sitting at home would.”

Maybe Mickelson can handle that unpredictability because he’s so predictable off the course. He’s the husband who always calls his wife after a round. He’s the dad who’ll fly home on a Saturday night (as he did last month at Pebble Beach), even when he’s in contention to win the next day (as he was), so he can attend his daughter’s dance recital. “My family has reduced the effect of my career on my self-esteem,” he says. “When I’m with them, they make me feel special regardless of how I play.”