Say this for Phil Mickelson: You catch him in the right mood, at the right time, and he'll answer any question you throw his way. In stark contrast to some other golfers we could name, he's forthcoming about his failures and his shortcomings, and oh, he's had plenty in the last few months.
The AP's Doug Ferguson caught up with Mickelson while Phil was surveying Sheshan International, site of this weekend's HSBC Champions. Mickelson is the defending champion, and his win in 2009 was part of a classic Mickelson rollercoaster season.
This year, he's ridden the highs of an Augusta win and the lows of 12 failed attempts to take over the No. 1 spot ... and then having to watch as Lee Westwood basically backed in without having to play his way to the top. Still, he concedes that he didn't deserve the spot, the way he played most of 2010:
"I haven’t played well since the Masters — or as well as I expected — maybe since the U.S. Open," Mickelson said. "So I don’t feel like I’ve earned it. I’ve got to play well and win more tournaments, and then I feel like those results will take care of itself."
And how about the off-course troubles? Mickelson was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis, a painful condition that may well have affected his play throughout much of the summer. Since then, however, he's treated the condition with medication, and believes he's back on his game:
"I’ve been taking one drug and I feel 100 percent," Mickelson said. "I feel terrific. I cannot believe the difference. I’ve been able to do all the normal activities in my life. I’ve been able to practice at whatever level, and I honestly don’t feel any different than I did before."
Obviously, nothing's ever easy with Phil. But as we've seen with Tiger Woods, one's off-course problems don't just bleed through to the on-course game, they can completely derail it. If Phil has his head and his health straight, he's still got the potential to be a formidable player. And who knows ... one good four-day stretch and he's No. 1 after all. And it'd only be appropriate if Phil took the hardest way possible to the top.