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Phil Mickelson and the ugly side of golf stardom

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Welcome to the new golf world order.

If you believe everything you read, you'd think that Phil Mickelson is both the paragon of family values AND a two-faced scam artist, an example of what's right in golf AND an example of what's wrong in golf. How in the world can this be possible?

The reason for this, of course, is obvious: Tiger Woods.

Woods' infidelity made worldwide headlines, and even five months later, Woods remains a polarizing figure. The Jim Nantz post we ran here a couple days back generated 16,000 comments, and bear in mind that commenters are only a small fraction of total readers. People want to know everything they can about Tiger Woods — and, in this case, that involves the man now dubbed the anti-Tiger.

The post-Augusta lionization of Phil Mickelson is more than a little disturbing, both because of the creepiness of the man-crushes from the Old Media Guard and because this is exactly what got us all into trouble with Tiger. When fans and media raise a guy up to be more than just a golfer, to be a symbol, that's a huge burden. Clearly, Woods wasn't capable of handling that burden.

Is Mickelson? Well, he's being painted as the ultimate family man, a guy who stuck by his wife during her cancer and takes his kids out for doughnuts. For his sake, I hope he never does anything worse than chew food with his mouth open, because there are armies of Tiger supporters, Phil haters and media opportunists out there ready to pounce on him.

Indeed, it's already happening. We noted earlier this week that "Amy Mickelson ring" was one of the highest-trending topics in online searches. Guess what another was: "Amy Mickelson affair." There have been ugly rumors about both Phil and Amy Mickelson, and plenty of people — readers and media alike — are starting to dig for this.

Fortunately, many of these rumors don't hold up to even the most basic scrutiny. Waggle Room has posted an exhaustive, exceptional deconstruction of all the rumors surrounding Mickelson. It's a must-read for anybody who claims to hate Phil Mickelson ... or anybody who claims that the media just parrots tabloid sleaze. Among the post's findings:

• Mickelson did not switch equipment companies in order to either pay off gambling debts or pay off the alleged mother of some alleged Ohio love child.

• The claims that Amy Mickelson had an affair with Michael Jordan have no basis in reality.

• Mickelson does not have to avoid the state of Ohio because of the aforementioned "love child;" in fact, he plays there every year.

Taken at face value, the Phil and Amy Mickelson story — golfer wins Masters as his cancer-stricken wife looks on — is exceptional all its own. It's a true shame that people have to taint that with ugly, unfounded rumors or overload it with cheap sentimentality.


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