Lefty turns 47 today.
Phil Mickelson has won 42 times on the PGA Tour, ninth-most of all time and three behind Walter Hagen, who is eighth on that list. He has won five major championships, including three Masters, and has qualified for eleven straight Ryder Cup teams since 1995. With an aggressive, go-for-broke style reminiscent of Arnold Palmer, and a short game wizardry that calls to mind Seve Ballesteros, Mickelson is one of the most exciting players in history. He has spent over 700 weeks in the top ten Official World Golf Ranking and is one of 16 players in history to win at least three of the four majors. With a Masters, Open Championship and PGA Championship to his credit, the only major that has eluded Lefty is the U.S. Open, an event in which he has finished runner-up a record six times. With over $ 82,500,000 in official career prize money as of April 2017, Mickelson is ranked second on the PGA Tour’s all-time money list. Only Tiger Woods, with more than $ 100 million in earnings, has won more.
Mickelson owns one of the most decorated amateur careers in history. He burst onto the scene as a 20-year-old with a win at the 1991 Northern Telecom Open in Tucson. No amateur has won a PGA Tour event since. Lefty won three NCAA individual titles in four years at Arizona State, joining Ben Crenshaw as the only three-time winner. In 1990, he led ASU to the NCAA team championship while also winning the individual title. Only Jack Nicklaus has accomplished that double. That year, Mickelson also won the U.S. Amateur and Porter Cup. He was low amateur at the 1991 Masters, earned first-team All-American honors all four years at ASU, and joined Crenshaw as the only three-time recipient of the Haskins Award as the top player in college golf. After securing his Tour card with the win at the 1991 Northern Telecom Open, Mickelson stayed in school for 18 months to earn a psychology degree.
Born in San Diego on this date in 1970, Phillip Alfred is the middle of Phil Sr. and Mary Mickelson’s three children. A former Navy fighter pilot who later flew commercially, Phil Sr. introduced his son to golf at 18 months. He watched his father, who was a righty, hit balls for four months before taking his first swing. Mirroring his dad, he immediately struck a left-handed pose, and senior tried turning junior around to swing right-handed, but the youngster was stubborn. “After the third time, I gave up. His swing was unlike anyone’s I’ve ever seen for someone that young,” said Phil Sr. “We weren’t going to fool around and change his swing. We were going to change his club.” After finding the lightest set of left-handed ladies’ clubs he could find, the elder Mickelson went into his garage and made his son a left-handed driver. The youngster took it everywhere.
In 1980, Phil Sr. turned his San Diego backyard into a practice green and chipping area for his ten-year-old son to hone his short game. Featuring Bermuda grass, a bunker and a kidney-shaped green, the set-up included enough room to carry a ball 44 yards in the air. Lefty hit tens of thousands of balls in that backyard, and his short game became his calling card. The Junior World Golf Championship is one of the most prestigious junior events in the world. The 1984 tourney was legendary. Played at Balboa Park Golf Course in San Diego, Mickelson finished second to Ernie Els in the 13-14 year-old age group. David Toms, who beat Mickelson by one shot to claim the 2001 PGA Championship, won the 15-17 bracket, while eight-year-old Eldrick “Tiger” Woods took the 9-10s.
Mickelson attended The University High School, a co-educational, Catholic, college prep school located across the interstate from Sea World. Alma mater of screenwriter Cameron Crowe, L.A. Lakers coach Luke Walton and former Chicago Cubs pitcher Mark Prior, “Uni” boasted a top sports program. The Dons played many of their matches at nearby Torrey Pines, a regular stop on the PGA Tour and site of the 2008 U.S. Open. One of Lefty’s golf teammates at Uni was Scott Peterson, who was later convicted of murdering his wife Laci and their unborn child. In 2005, The University High School closed its doors and moved 20 miles north, reopening as Cathedral Catholic in Carmel Valley.
In addition to his 42 Tour wins, Mickelson has 34 second-place finishes, 26 thirds, and 185 top tens. Lefty has finished in the top ten in 32 majors. In 2004, he won the Masters, finished second at the U.S. Open, took third at the Open Championship and tied for sixth at the PGA. Now in his 27th year on Tour, Lefty has finished in the top ten on the money list 14 times. Playing in the era of Woods, he has never topped the money list but has finished second five times, including three seasons in a row from 2000 to 2002. In 2011, he earned an estimated $ 62 million, $ 53 million of which came from endorsements.
Although he has not won since 2013, the 6’3”, 200-pounder remains competitive. He shot an Open Championship-record 63 in the opening round at Troon last year, then closed with a 65 on Sunday, yet lost to Henrik Stenson by two shots. His 267 set a record for lowest runner-up finish in the 145-year history of the Open Championship and trails only his 266 [where he lost to Toms] as lowest total by a runner-up in major championship history. Lefty has played in 45 Ryder Cup matches. Only Nick Faldo, with 46, has played more. His 18 Ryder Cup victories trail only Palmer , Lanny Wadkins, and Billy Casper, who each have 20. Mickelson loves playing for his country and has never missed qualifying for a President’s Cup team. He played a huge role in the United States’ reversal of fortune at the 2016 Ryder Cup at Hazeltine, leading a task force to alter the U.S approach while going 2-1-1 to lead the Americans to only their second victory in the last eight events. “He’s so positive, and he can really make you feel like if you’re off that you’re on,” said Ryder Cup teammate and two-time major winner Jordan Spieth.
Lefty is a devoted son. After winning the 1993 Buick Open at Torrey Pines, he was awarded a car, which the 2012 World Golf Hall of Famer promptly gifted to his mother bearing the license plate FOREMA. The next Buick victory car went to his father with the license plates reading THXSON. Although Ballesteros influenced his golf game, Mickelson fashioned his approach on how to conduct himself as a human being after Arnold Palmer. Like “The King,” Lefty always makes time for his legions of fans, signing autographs until his hand is numb. “Arnold said this to me a long time ago, and it’s always been in the back of my mind,” said Mickelson. “He said, ‘Never walk past anybody, always look them in the eye, always acknowledge their existence.’ He said to acknowledge the fact that we get to play golf for a living because of these people.”
With his wife, Amy, whom Phil met while both were undergrads at ASU, Mickelson practices random acts of kindness. The Phil and Amy Mickelson Charitable Gift Fund benefits “Birdies for the Brave” by pledging $ 100 for every birdie and $ 500 for every eagle Lefty makes to benefit our nation’s troops. Upon learning that former NFL player Conrad Dobler – whom Mickelson has never met — had fallen upon hard times financially after his wife suffered a catastrophic injury, Mickelson quietly paid for Holli Dobler’s tuition at Miami of Ohio. He also helped with living expenses. In 2016, Holli Dobler joined one of Chicago’s most prestigious law firms as an associate.