Phil Mickelson withdrawing from Memorial Tournament sets bad precedent

Phil Mickelson pulled out of the Memorial Tournamenton Thursday after shooting a first-round 79. He didn’t make any excuses. He didn’t say that his well-documented psoriatic arthritisflared up or that he had tweaked the wrist that has given him problems over the years.

He blamed it on being tired from the European vacation that he and his wife Amy had taken last week and that he had not come prepared to play in the tournament hosted by the legendary Jack Nicklaus. Mickelson said he needed to spend more time on the range with his swing coach, Butch Harmon, before theU.S. Open in two weeks at the Olympic Club.


"Certainly I'm disappointed with how I played today, but I've got to be more big-picture oriented and think about the [U.S.] Openand what's best to get my best golf out there," Mickelson said. "I need the next few days to rest up a bit."

Given how well Mickelson would have needed to play Friday just to make the cut, we're talking about one more day of work. How many of us have said that we needed a vacation after coming back from vacation, but we sucked it up and went back to work. I appreciate Mickelson's honesty, but can you imagine if someone else – say, Tiger Woods – had done the same thing?

The fine that Mickelson will receive from the PGA Touris pocket change for a many-times-over millionaire whose name has been mentioned as part of a group trying to buy his hometown San Diego Padres. But I think Mickelson is setting a dangerous precedent for a generation of younger players who are not exactly the most tough-minded athletes out there.

Mickelson will get a pass from the fans because he is unfailingly polite and generous when it comes to standing around giving autographs the way Cal Ripken did when he played for the Orioles. But how about the fans who bought tickets for Friday so they could see the tour's most popular player in person? I haven't read or heard anything from Nicklaus, but I'm sure he isn't thrilled.

Had it been Woods and not Mickelson, there would be an uproar. Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith would still be yelling at each other on ESPN's "First Take". When Tiger pulled out of a tournament last year after a poor opening round, saying that he was hurt, I thought he was tanking. He was out three months.

To me, Mickelson's excuse of being tired after galivanting around France and Italy for wife Amy's 40th birthday doesn't sit well with me either. It's not that they flew coach and sat for six hours cramped next to a sweaty guy who had not showered in three weeks. It's not that they stayed in some mom-and-pop bed-and-breakfast with a dog who barked at 5 a.m. each morning. I assume they took a private jet and stayed at a five-star resort or some villa.

One more thing: if Mickelson had shot 69 rather than 79, do you think he would have pulled out?

You know the answer as well as I do.

Recommended on Baltimore Sun