Sports Illustrated will announce its choice for Sportsman of the Year on Dec. 4. Below are some personal choices for that honor by SI writers.
11/20/2006 12:34:00 PM
My Sportsman: Phil Mickelson
Phil Mickelson (right) was gracious in defeat after his collapse opened the door for Geoff Ogilvy to win the U.S. Open last June.
By Michael Bamberger
Phil Mickelson was one par away from joining the pantheon. He had won the final major of 2005, the PGA Championship, at a famous old bogey factory, Baltusrol. In April, he had won at Augusta National. Now it was U.S. Open Sunday, at Winged Foot, in the New York steam, and Mickelson was on the 18th tee. He needed a par to win, to become only the third golfer ever to win three straight professional major championships. Ben Hogan, Tiger Woods -- and Lefty, if he could just manage a four.
His tee shot missed the fairway but hit a tent. His second shot was a slap-shot off a tree. He played the third shot from a buried lie in a trap, and the fourth from another bunker. The fifth -- the one that would have meant an 18-hole playoff with Geoff Ogilvy -- never sniffed the hole. New York had adopted him and now New York was attending his funeral. His double-bogey finish put him in a tie for second with Jim Furyk and Colin Montgomerie.
And then he did what true sportsmen do. He talked to the press. He signed autographs for fans. He followed the custom and went to the USGA's award ceremony, where the blue coats give out medals for the low amateur, the runners-up and a trophy to the winner. Furyk, a former U.S. Open winner, blew off the awards ceremony after his bogey at the last. Montgomerie, who has never won in the U.S., did the same. But Mickelson showed up to again claim a medal he so did not want. He praised Ogilvy's stellar play and apologized to his fans for letting them down.
Mickelson knows what it's like to be a fan. Pro football, college football, pro basketball, college basketball, he's got rooting interests all over the place, screaming at a TV that cannot hear him. He's like us.
And that's why he's my Sportsman of the Year, for how he handled himself in the hour after the greatest sporting disappointment of his life. That's when good manners are revealed, when class is revealed, when who you really are is revealed. Mickelson showed himself to be a person with a sense of balance, responsible to the people who make his life possible: his fans. Pretty damn rare these days.
Talking to reporters, he was funny. ("What are we gonna talk about today?") He was candid. ("I am such an idiot.") He was wistful. ("I had it right there in my hand, man.") And he was defiant. ("I'm not going to let one bad shot ruin the rest of my life.") He had to know, though: The chances of him ever being in position again to win three consecutive majors are close to zero. Not in the Tiger Era.
This year, through the U.S. Open, Mickelson had won over $4 million; since then he's won a little over $200,000. He finished in a tie for 22nd at the British Open, a tie for 16th at the PGA Championship, went 0-4-1 at the Ryder Cup and didn't even play in the Tour Championship.
Some people were critical of him for skipping the Tour's grand finale. Please. Why should he play in tournaments he knows he can't win? That would be cheating himself and his fans. A professional golfer is independently owned and operated. Besides, he showed up at the awards ceremony on U.S. Open Sunday, and that was more than enough. He showed that his manners are excellent, and so is his sense of balance.
Monty was also gracious in his GREAT disappointment ... does that make him runners up? I thought sportsman was synonymous to excellence in sport? Going by your logic and articles, you should be nominated as well!
Phil Mickelson is truely a good sport and an all around good guy. There is no other choice for this award. What Phil Mickelson did was what every athelete should do whether they are beaten or they win. Phil Mickelson deserves Sportsman of the year without a doubt.
This is a joke right - Phony Phil, Sportsman of the Year!?
"Phil Mickelson was one par away from joining the pantheon" yea, then he remembered who he is and choked it all away and sulked the rest of the season.
If you're dead set on a golfer how about Tiger rebounding from the death of his father with 2 major wins. Even Darren Clarke and a fine Ryder Cup performance after his wife's death is more palatable than congratulating Mickelson for almost realizing his potential and being nice about failing to do so.
Sportsman of the year is not just about winning (which is a component) but is also about the ideals of sportmanship and playing the game the way it was meant to be played. I challenge anyone to disagree that Mickelson is not worthy of Sportsman of the year (I am not saying he is the choice, but certainly deserving). Whether it is genuine or created, there are few athletes (especially in golf) that perform at such a high level and have the grace Phil has and understanding of how important the fans are. Lefty has these qualities in spades. Others may have these characterisitcs but few actually show them. Even under dire circumstances, these qualities were evident, and that is truly the epitome of a sportsman.
That Phil demonstrated class after his major choke (pun intended) makes him a good guy, and that is a nice story to read about a professional athlete... but Sportsman of the Year?? Pretty hard to look past Tiger if you want a golfer, and I have a tough time comparing the success of any other athlete on the globe with that of Roger Federer this year. Thanks for the feel good story but I cannot endorse a guy who takes a good chunk of the season off as Sportsman of the Year, even if he was the best in his sport (which he is not).
Tiger came back from the greatest personal loss of his life and his worst major perfomance to have one of the best years in his career. That to me is more inspiring and more deserving of the sportsman of the year award.
Great choice Michael. As a big Phil fan I was very disappointed to read the GQ article that said he was quite disliked by other tour pros. I understand that nobody signs more autographs than Phil and it is certainly clear that he is a solid family man. So I'm really pleased to see some more positive press for him by virture of your nomination. You won't see Phil having the stupid little Tiger tantrums on the course when he hits a poor shot. Hopefully Tiger will grow up in that regard as he looks like a fool when he does it. Go Phil in the 2007 Masters!
Please stop buying into everything that the Mickelson camp is selling. As someone who has worked in the golf industry for the last five years, I know a lot of what goes on behind the scenes and Phil certainly doesn't live up to his image as a nice guy. How can you not recgonize Tiger's two major wins and all around astounding season? Why is everyone so set on knocking Tiger off the pedestal we put him on in the first place? He meets our expectations and raises them, again and again, all while under the intense scrutiny of the media and public. In a sport that millions play all over the world, he is able to do what no other huMAN can do week after week. He's my SportsMAN of the year.
It seems we want a different take on this topic every year. It seems fairly obvious - Sportsman of the Year. It's not the "Nice Guy" contest, it's not the "Who should my kids look up to contest", it's not "the man who donates the most time/money to charity award." It is, in my opinion, the award given to that athlete (or even team) that performed and achieved excellence - or were the best at their respective sport - period! Therefore, while I admire Darren Clarke, Dikembe Mutumbo, Chris DiMarco, Tony Dungy, etc. they were simply not the best. I'd have a tough time not leaning towards: Roger Federer, Tiger Woods or Lorena Ochoa
How about Co-Sportsmen of the year. Dick and Rick Hoyt. Dick (father)runs the marathon while pushing Rick (son)who is in a wheel chair and can't talk. I'm quite sure everybody knows there story. If this doesn't make you choke up then nothing will. true inspiration. More than anything that all of these over paid athletes could ever provide.
Please, please, please stop trying to turn Phil into some kind of saint. The halo just does not fit. Sportman of the year should not go to someone because he is supposedly a "nice guy" and has a maniacal smile.
If this is the reason you want to give Mickelson this award, then why didn't Norman get this award in 1996? Because this award should go to a winner and the same person that won it that year is the same person that should win it this year: Tiger Woods.
PHIL MICKELSON is the nicest PGA Tour Pro there is. I have seen him sign autographs for one hour after a bad round at the Colonial when Sergio the punk signed two and didn't say a word to anyone. Phil is generous to the locker room staff, UNLIKE TIGER. Phil is the greatest gentleman in the sport. Punks like Sergio and Tiger should get some class somewhere.
I guess we're all anonymous. I don't think it matters that Phil will not have a chance to win three in a row again. Heck, who knows if Tiger will ever again have that chance. After all, he is an old man of 31 now. Back to Phil, I believe that he was taking them one at a time, and that explains how he got to 2.9 in a row. If he follows through with that approach, he'll do fine. It seems he is learning what Tiger learned half a decade ago...how to shape his majors game to the differing demands of majors courses. I expect we'll see him with two drivers at Augusta again. As far as Oakmont, perhaps two putters! The Open will require two umbrellas, while the PGA, well, who knows?
My problem with Phila as SOY is that he quit for the rest of the year. Tiger should have played the Tour Championship, but at least he kept playing elsewhere. Phil bailed out of the Grand Slam 4 months early, and should have told Tom Lehman he was quitting before he was run out five times in the Ryder Cup. I respect Phil for his conduct at the Open, but you should honor a quitter.
Mickelson showed great character after his dismal final hole at the US Open. But why do so many call him a FAKE, a PHONEY, when he actually won two majors right before? What do all the other golfers who never win anything turn into in that case? You don't need to be coarse and insult this seemingly sensitive and sensible golfer. But clearly the experience hit him hard, and he has had problems focusing since. Sportman of the Year? It depends on what criteria you go by.. Rather, gentleman of the year. In the NHL they do distinguish the Lady Byng Trophy from those which refer to best players.
I'll state up front I'm a huge Tiger Woods fan, and believe he should at least be considered for the SOY award. I like Phil also, but don't believe his play or behavior has risen to Tiger's level. Yes he won two majors prior to the US Open, but how did he respond to trials in his life?
They always say, it's the storm that tells the story. How did Tiger respond during his trial, and how did Darren Clarke respond when his wife passed away?
Trials tells us about our character. As I said, I like Phil, but don't believe signing autographs for fans makes him automatically qualified.
Let me get this straight. Phil should be Sportsman of the Year because (1) like a bonehead he gambled off the last tee of a major championship with a driver and double bogeyed the hole and blew his chances at a win when the "smart" play was to hit an iron off the tee and seal his victory, and (2) he stood up like a man and admitted his mistake? BULLFEATHERS!!! Lefty was not even the best golfer of the year much less sportsman of the year.
i always get discouraged when people say that because Tiger gets frustrated, or don't sign autographs from time to time. Tiger is the greatest golfer to ever play the game....and yes he's human. does anyone come close to his charity work in golf, NO. did anyone lose their father/mentor/best friend and still perform superbly as Tiger did; again, I say no. what we're seeing today is pure genious, and for anyone that can't recognize his superior skills; either have a problem with the color of his skin, or just don't like a true winner. Tiger is the greatest golfer to ever play the game, and you will see him as the #1 Majors winner by no less than 5 more than JACK
Phil is a great golfer and won 3 majors. He is also pompous, arrogant, and anything but a sportsman. Phil is for Phil, and nobody else. Sportsman of the Year? Not in this lifetime !!!!! Darren Clarke is THE obvious pick !!!
"Sportsman of the Year" award shouldn't go to someone who loses graciously and doesn't show his face in most of the tournaments (talk about meeting fans!) because he thinks he cannot win - where is the mental toughness?
"Sportsman of the Year" award should go to a player who works his guts out (mentally and physically) so that his results shows he is so much better than the other sportsman in the same field WORLDWIDE. So .. please don't vote for someone based on your emotions.
Why should Phil be awarded for going back to his old run and gun style, when it finally seemed he was through with it? His collapse was one for the ages. I`m sure there is an award he can receive for that...maybe a sports bloopers show? Phil is all about Phil when it comes to the sport of golf (reference his Ryder Cup record), and that`s not the definition of a "Sportsman".