Think back to the nicknames Phil Mickelson has garnished in the past. Schmickey. Tubby. FIGJAM. Choke.
In the past year, Lefty has tossed out just about all of those, and he's doing much of the same this week at Pebble Beach.
The old Phil wouldn't have bounced back after that Thursday 75 that he called one of his worst putting rounds ever. Old Phil (O.P.) would have gone out on Friday with his head down, aggressive roots out, and played like you'd expect him to play. Maybe he made the cut, maybe he didn't, but he wouldn't have been a factor on the weekend and it would have been just another "What If" for Lefty.
New Phil (N.P.) isn't that guy. N.P. went out on Friday and platooned the unplayable golf course, making nine threes on his way to a 66, a number that hasn't even been sniffed by the rest of the field at this U.S. Open.
You can't exactly credit his turnaround to anything more than old(er) age and experience. The past was the past for a reason, and Phil struggled in major championships because he hadn't won one. When he finally took down that first Masters, you could see a change in his game. He felt he could win the big one, and has done so ever since. Sure, you can scream about him never winning this major, but the facts are right in front of you; he has been there, he has seen the end of the road, and he has had his fingers ohsoclose to that beautiful silver trophy. If there is a man in this field that can pull from experience in this event, Phil is your guy.
Maybe the support from his fellow PGA Tour pros after his wife, Amy, was diagnosed with breast cancer helped him drop the first nickname (Sayanora Schmickey!), and his workout routine has shed the gut (Too ta loo, Tubby!), but the real change seems to come with his ability to be a guy we all seem to like again. I'll be the first to admit that Mickelson has rubbed me the wrong way at times, but I couldn't for the life of me pick out a reason why. Maybe it was the fact that he'd grin like an idiot every time he lost these close majors instead of showing that yes, even Phil Mickelson, can get mad. Whatever it is, Lefty seems as likable as ever, and is the obvious pick as most dominant golfer in the game right now, something that nobody thought was possible with Tiger Woods still breathing.
Watch out for N.P. this weekend. If he doesn't take down this title, after that incredible Friday round that had goosebumps upon goosebumps jumping to the surface wondering what was going on, it'll be an absolute travesty. When was the last time you heard that when tossing Mickelson's major chances around?