It's easy to like Phil Mickelson -- the smiles, thumbs up and aggressive style embody the four-time major winner. But he sure makes it difficult sometimes.
Here are five reasons why it's tough to be a Lefty fan.
1. The missed opportunities -- Phil, let me count the ways you've broken your fans' hearts, particularly in the majors. How about the '06 U.S. Open, when you took needlessly took driver on the 72nd hole? Or maybe the '04 Open Championship, one of two chances you've ever had to the Claret Jug? At least you hold the distinction of the most second-place finishes in U.S. Open history and own perhaps one of the three greatest shots in Masters history.
2. The thumbs-up parade -- When things are going well for Phil, his thumbs get a workout. Since the 2010 Masters, Phil has used the thumbs-up as his gesture of choice to acknowledge fans. It's friendly and endearing, but man, just step on some throats sometimes. Make the cutthroat sign with that thumb every once in a while.
3. The strange equipment decisions -- Mickelson has probably employed some of the most unique 14-club bags in major-championship history. From the two drivers at the '06 Masters (that worked), to that ill-fated effort to use the belly putter (probably to prove a point about anchoring), to the Phrankenwood he used at Augusta National in April, it seems Lefty is never satisfied with a standard set of clubs.
4. The shows of brilliance -- In the opening round at this year's Waste Management Phoenix Open, Mickelson was a lip-out away from the sixth 59 in PGA Tour history. He went on to win that week, locking up a 10th consecutive year with at least one Tour win. Imagine if Phil cashed in on more opportunities over the years? His win tally might be closer to 60 than the 41 he has on the PGA Tour.
5. He has been overshadowed by Tiger -- Whatever Phil does between now and the end of his career, he will finish second-best in this generation behind Tiger Woods. While Mickelson could have done much more against Tiger head-to-head with majors on the line, the undisputed best of this era somewhat marginalized the career achievements of one of the game's great magicians.
Ryan Ballengee is a Washington, D.C.-based golf writer. His work has appeared on multiple digital outlets, including NBC Sports and Golf Channel.
- Sports & Recreation