Phil Mickelson should be the toast of the PGA Championship at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Okla., this week, but the defending champion is home, puttering around his Southern California mansion and devoting his time to being an uncle.
As Mickelson continues to take time away from the PGA Tour after his controversial and widely criticized comments about Saudi Arabia and a fledgling golf tour based there, life is different for the six-time major champion.
That's according to his mother, Mary, who chatted by phone with USA Today and said her son has a new look and has been spending his time away from golf with family.
“I didn't recognize him at first,” Mary Mickelson told the publication. “He had a little bit of a beard and mustache. I don't ever remember him doing that before. Not too many people recognize him, so it's been fun to be able to go out with him.”
And he has a new attitude, one the public isn't used to seeing on the course from the competitive Mickelson, who turns 52 next month.
“I wish you could see him now,” Mary Mickelson said. “He's relaxed, he laughs all the time.”
Mickelson, who lives in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., has been going to his niece's lacrosse and nephew's Little League games, she said. He is the father of three grown children.
“He spent a whole day with those little ones, his nephew and his niece, and really they saw a different side of him,” Mary Mickelson said. “And now every time we're together they talk with him more and seem to appreciate him more, whereas before it was mainly watching on TV. “Those things are so important to him and I think he probably forgot how important they were.”
Once Mickelson decides to come back, things will be different. He lost at least three major sponsors, and his reputation continues to take a hit. A recent unauthorized biography recently released is stirring controversy on multiple fronts and claims Mickelson lost $40 million gambling from 2010-14.
His friend, Basketball Hall of Fame member Charles Barkley, said Mickelson can't stay around the house forever.
“I think it's time for him to come out of hibernation,” Barkley told USA Today.
“I talked to Phil and I told him, ‘Hey, man, how long are you going to hide out? It's time for you to come out,' ” Barkley said. “Phil is my friend and always will be my friend. That does not mean he did not screw up. But the notion that he's got to stay in his house for the rest of his life is just (expletive).”