Phil Mickelson didn’t take long to make up for lost time.
After not touching a golf club for six weeks as he adhered to strict stay-at-home measures in California due to the COVID-19 pandemic that shut down the PGA Tour March 13, Mickelson gradually got back into hitting balls in his backyard.
But chips and pitches and putts quenched his thirst for the game he’s loved since he started mirroring his father’s swing – thus the natural right-hander started to become Lefty before turning 2 – only so much. He was like Spielberg without a camera, Bobby Flay without a kitchen.
But once the Golden State eased sheltering measures and golf courses were allowed to reopen a week or so later, Phil got his golf fix in a hurry.
Mickelson, a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame and winner of 44 PGA Tour titles (including five major), started playing 36 holes either on foot or in a cart most every day at Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club, The Farms Golf Club or Bear Creek Golf Club.
“When you haven’t played for a while you get to know why you love it so much and miss it,” Mickelson told Golfweek earlier this week. “The courses are in great shape and I think it’s one of the safest places to be outside with socially-distanced standards and with sunlight on your back.
“The last two weeks I’ve been practicing and playing 36 holes a day a lot and I’ve been having a blast playing golf.”
Mickelson has ramped up his work with a golf club in hand to get ready for Sunday’s “The Match: Champions for Charity,” where he’ll team with Tom Brady and face Tiger Woods and Peyton Manning at Medalist Golf Club in Hobe Sound, Florida, Woods’ home course. The event will raise at least $10 million for coronavirus relief efforts.
Mickelson said he’s playing well and is confident – no surprise there – that he and Brady will emerge victorious and make sure that whenever Woods shows up at his home course, “he’ll have a bad memory.” Raising millions for a good cause will make his cross-country trip that much better.
“I’m proud to be with Tiger and Peyton and Tom and raise money for relief efforts,” Mickelson said. “That’s what’s most important. And I’m just glad I’m playing golf again. It’s been incredible to get back outside and playing.
“Golf has an opportunity to gain a much bigger following right now because it’s one of the few sports where you can play safely during this pandemic and it gives you the opportunity to spend time with friends, to be outside and get some exercise and do it safely.
“So I’m hopeful that golf really takes off this summer and we’re able to play the PGA Tour safely and people will be watching and they will get inspired to go play because it’s so much fun to get outside and be with your buddies and play this great game in a safe environment.”
Mickelson is planning to play the first two tournaments when the PGA Tour season resumes. That would be June 11-14 at the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial Golf Club in Texas. Mickelson also wants to play the following week in the RBC Heritage at Harbour Town Golf Links in South Carolina.
He’s played Colonial 15 times, winning in 2000 and 2008. This year’s Colonial already boasts an impressive commitment list that includes Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm and Brooks Koepka. Mickelson has played Harbour Town seven times, most recently in 2002, with two thirds his best finishes.
“If nothing unforeseen comes up, I’m looking forward to playing again,” Mickelson said. “I’m excited to get out there and play and compete. We’ve all missed it. Golf is one of the few sports we can compete safely in this environment and provide entertainment.
“I’ve missed everything about the game. I’ve missed being with friends, I’ve missed the competition. I’ve missed the competitiveness.
“And I’ve just missed playing.”
Which doesn’t surprise four-time PGA Tour winner Charley Hoffman, who has played with Mickelson this week in the San Diego area.
“He’s been around town playing way more golf than me,” Hoffman said in a conference call. “He’s a grinder. He loves to play golf and he loves to compete. The guy’s nearly 50 years old and he’s out there playing and walking 36 holes a day and playing with anybody and everybody.
“Phil will be ready for the match.”
Golfweek. . Phil Mickelson getting plenty of reps as he gets back to the game he loves. Available at: https://golfweek.usatoday.com/2020/05/21/phil-mickelson-coronavirus-return-golf-match-tiger-woods/