It was a dramatic week in Detroit last week. First Bryson De Chambeau parted company with his long time caddie, which prompted Sam Harrop, reportedly ‘golf’s premier parodist’ to turn this into a song.
Then the Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama withdrew, having tested positive for Covid. When his playing partner in the first round, Rickie Fowler, was asked how he felt he said he was vaccinated, wasn’t worried but had a discussion with the press about the five pages of protocols sent by the R&A to players travelling to Royal St Georges to compete in The Open.
“We’re jumping through hurdles and dodging bullets and they’re bringing in 32,000 fans a day”.
He complained. But this will be just one week before all restrictions on sporting events are lifted in England, though I expect every one of the 32,000 – and especially me – will treasure every moment of being there.
Then two South Korean players Sung Jae Im and Si Woo Kim, both in the top 50 in the world, announced that they were dropping out of The Open to concentrate on their preparations for the Tokyo Olympics. The incentive for them winning and Olympic medal is strong as both are due for compulsory military conscription before the age of 28, a major career disruptor. Remember Sang Moon Bae, who had 20 months in the military between 2015 and 2017, and hasn’t recovered his form. Winning an Olympic medal would exempt them. Im, who is 26, has just this chance. Kim, who is 23, has another shot in 2024, but should this be their motivation for skipping a major? Their places in The Open have gone to Emilliano Grillo and Keegan Bradley.
But the biggest drama of the week. Leave it to Phil.
Every year, there is a pearl. We thought that him unexpectedly becoming golf’s oldest major champion at 50 would be enough attention for one year, without having to stir up some kind of controversy. But obviously not.
In Detroit he vowed never to return after a local newspaper ran a story about a court case when a bookie placed one or more very large bets for Mickelson, but was unable to pay the $500,000 he owed.
Mickelson got his lawyer to speak to ESPN saying that the newspaper shouldn’t have dredged up a case that was over 20 years old and the sole purpose of doing so was to embarass Phil.
He also took to twitter and carried on drawing attention to the story, which was published behind a pay wall.
Several media representatives present at the tournament thought that he wasn’t really justified in being upset, taking aim at the media, and threatening to boycot the tournament as payback, he is after all, a current major champion gracing this event for the first time.
Perhaps, as he often has done, he realised that he’d been, once again, silly, and unreasonable to keep poking at this, and the following day made a U turn, asking people to do random acts of kindness, then he would return.
Whether it was immature and a tad egotistical, seemingly pointing out the tournament were lucky to have him there, or not, what this was was yet another pearl of Phil. Every year, there’s something.
What is concerning is this. He said of his Twitter account, which until now has been mostly Phireside irony
“when stuff happened this week, it was nice to have a voice”.
Now that is a portent of things to come. When he inevitably becomes Ryder Cup Captain, we had better hold onto our hats for a huge twitterstorm, there will be something.