For two rounds of the Wells Fargo Championship, the leader board had been various shades of beige – lots of off-Broadway guys up there – but Phil Mickelson took care of that Saturday, switching on the neon with golf that just plain defies logic.
In one stretch of holes, he had five birdies and an eagle, and made it look easy with that long left-handed swing and that short game from heaven.
Mickelson shot 29 on the front side, 63 for the round to rocket back into contention after a Friday 75 had taken that familiar smile off his face.
True, Saturday was a good day for scoring at Quail Hollow Club, with gentle breezes and some polite pin placements, but 29? Sixty-three?
Nothing Mickelson does surprises us anymore. Almost. It is a bit surprising that his best finish on the PGA Tour this year is 12th place. Inconsistency has always hitched a ride in his golf bag from time to time, but it just made him more fun to watch. This year it had set up housekeeping.
Mickelson is somebody you can pull for and it shows in the oceans of fans he pulls behind him, roaring like a football crowd when he hits a good one.
He connects with the galleries better than anybody, smiling a lot, nodding his head in response to their cheers. People eat it up.
Some players bring only golf to the job. Lefty brings color, warmth, adventure, emotion.
It’s about time he won the Wells Fargo. He’s been threatening to win it for 11 years now, finishing in the top five five times and the top 10 seven times. But something always happens. He’ll drown one in the pond at 17 or stub his toe at 18 or somebody will just out-shoot him and he’ll shake his head and walk away.
But with Phil, who knows what’s waiting around the next dogleg? As TV commentator David Feherty so artfully summed him up, he’s “eccentric, unpredictable, brilliant and flawed.”
What more can you ask?
Ron Green Sr. is a retired Observer sports columnist.
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