Watch out, world. Phil Mickelson is feeling himself again

Phil Mickelson at the LIV event in Adelaide, Australia, last week.
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Phil Mickelson has a tell. When he’s feeling good about his form, he’ll often take that positivity and heap praise on others. That might mean complimenting a host course’s grounds crew, calling out the fine play of an up-and-coming amateur in the field or, as happened Wednesday at the LIV event in Singapore, gushing about a head of state.
“I think one of the greatest leaders in history was Lee Kuan Yew,” Mickelson said of Singapore’s late prime minister; Mickelson was responding to a question about why Singapore appeals to him. “I love many of the things that he has done here and many of the policies he’s implemented. I feel really good when I get here. It’s such a clean, beautiful city. The people treat us with such respect, and the golf course, it’s as well maintained a golf course as I think I’ve ever seen. It’s just incredible.”
Mickelson wasn’t done. Later in the press conference, he was asked a follow-up about how he came to admire Yew. And here, the six-time major winner really dug in, flexing every bit of his political-science acumen.
“He said something when he was asked in an interview what was the greatest invention in the 20th century, he said air-conditioning because it made all of Asia a real force in the workforce, and I thought that was fascinating that of all the things that have been invented that air-conditioning was the most impactful,” Mickelson began. “Then I look at some of the policies implemented where he required many of the — every worker to put 10 percent in their retirement account, where you have to own and operate your own company for 10 years before getting into politics and then you look at how well run Singapore is, and it’s these little things that he had the foresight to implement, and then he started a country that had no natural resources and he makes it one of the largest import/export docks in the world. I just thought his vision and his ability to implement his vision is just remarkable. I think he’s one of the greatest leaders in history.”
You might feel inclined to quibble with that last point — for all Kew’s successes, he also was viewed by some as a “benevolent dictator” who limited press freedoms, labor rights and his citizens’ right to assemble — but Mickelson is entitled to his opinion. And we’re not here to parse it. The larger point is that Phil is increasingly starting to act and sound more like Phil again. Opining. Quipping. Pontificating. Letting golf fans back in. His improved play surely has something to do with that openness but perhaps there’s more to it than that.
At the Masters earlier this month, when Mickelson walked off the 18th green on Sunday, having just fired a seven-under 65 that would propel him into a tie for second, he couldn’t stop smiling. The mass of patrons around the green cheered for him as if he’d just won his fourth green jacket, many reaching out for a fist-bump or high five. Mickelson returned the love with hat tips and head nods and thumbs-ups. A few minutes later, he was hugging his former agent Steve Loy and wife Amy by the clubhouse. It felt like old times again.
Two weeks later, Mickelson was in Adelaide, Australia, for LIV’s fourth event of the season, where he again felt the warm embrace of the crowds. He and every other player. “I didn’t understand fully how many people were going to be here,” he said after his second-round 65. “I mean, numbers, they threw numbers around — I know it has been sold out for a while, but I didn’t really grasp that every fairway was going to be lined and just exactly how many people were coming out.” The rounds were so energy-sapping that Mickelson took 15-minute respites after signing his scorecards before he would re-emerge to speak with the press and sign autographs. When asked about the recharge sessions, he said, “I’m just kind of gathering myself.”
You can understand if the guy needed a moment. He’s been on quite a ride. A year ago, in the wake of Mickelson’s incendiary remarks about both the PGA Tour and his new Saudi employers, he was in no-man’s land, a golfing pariah who Tour loyalists couldn’t stomach and sponsors wouldn’t go near. His game was also in disarray. In seven starts on the limited-field LIV tour in 2022, he managed just one top-10 finish while missing the cut in the only two majors that would have him (the U.S. Open and Open Championship). “Atrocious” is how Mickelson described his play.
Something needed to change, and in the off-season it did. Mickelson buckled down with his swing coach, Andrew Getson. He got serious (again) about his diet and fitness. He even leaned on his LIV teammates — Brendan Steele, Cameron Tringale and 24-year-old James Piot — both for advice and motivation. Mickelson says he has learned from the stillness and rhythm of Tringale’s putting stroke and the consistency of Steele’s driving.  
“That’s kind of like Steeley,” Mickelson said Wednesday. “He articulated something, the same thing Andrew and I have been working on, but he articulated it just a little bit differently and a way that resonated a little bit differently for me on the golf course.”
The information exchange has worked in two directions. In the off-season, Piot — who won the U.S. Amateur in 2021 — spent a week practicing with Mickelson at Mickelson’s San Diego home. “I was sitting there thinking about it, man, how cool is this getting mentored by Phil Mickelson in his backyard?” Piot said. “It’s really the competition between us, too, and wanting to beat each other. He told me at the beginning of the season, hey, we’ve got something to prove, and let’s push each other.”
Early in 2023 Mickelson said he began to sense his game improving, even if his results didn’t show it. In his first three LIV starts of the year, he finished no better than 27th. In most rounds, Mickelson said, it was just a couple of loose, unfocused swings that were holding him back. Then came Augusta, where after a smooth second-round 69, he woofed: “I’m close to going on a tear. Pretty soon I’m going to have a really low one. When that happens and it clicks, then the game feels easy again.”
Two days later, he made eight birdies en route to a Sunday 65 and a runner-up finish that no one had seen coming.
Is Mickelson back back? Likely not. He’s sneaking up on 53 and flying all over the globe and still angling to play all four majors every year. No matter how good his physical condition, the odds are stacked against him regularly contending on the LIV circuit and beyond.  
But the spark does seem to be back, both when he’s on the tee and behind the mic. Mickelson surely never could have imagined that he’d wind down his career on a tour that hopped from Orlando to Adelaide, and from Singapore to Tulsa. But here he is, playing 54-hole team golf for the Hy Flyers, alongside “Steeley,” “Camo” and “Young Master Riot,” as Mickelson affectionately calls his teammates.
On Wednesday, Mickleson was asked if the team dynamic — mentoring, working together, pulling for one another — might help him in his quest to bag a seventh major.
“It is 100 percent making me better and 100 percent helping me get back to a level of play that I believe I can play at,” he said. “And I think I’m going to give myself quite a few chances now in some upcoming majors because my game is coming around, my driving is getting significantly better, my putting is getting significantly better, and the areas of my game are getting much sharper. Although I haven’t had the results for a long period of time, it is on an upward trend, and I’m looking to add to it this week. With a stretch of a lot of golf coming up in the next three, four months and a lot of great major championship opportunities with my game coming around, I expect to participate and compete and contend in these events.”
Buckle up. Phil is feeling himself again.

As’s executive editor, Bastable is responsible for the editorial direction and voice of one of the game’s most respected and highly trafficked news and service sites. He wears many hats — editing, writing, ideating, developing, daydreaming of one day breaking 80 — and feels privileged to work with such an insanely talented and hardworking group of writers, editors and producers. Before grabbing the reins at, he was the features editor at GOLF Magazine. A graduate of the University of Richmond and the Columbia School of Journalism, he lives in New Jersey with his wife and foursome of kids. and GOLF Magazine are published by EB GOLF MEDIA LLC, a division of 8AM GOLF


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