MEMPHIS, Tenn. – The PGA Tour has been back for seven tournaments and it feels different without fans, without handshakes on the 18th green, with video post-round interviews and writing this story wearing a mask.
But some things never change, such as Phil Mickelson heading out for a casual practice round with World No. 1 Jon Rahm at TPC Southwind and suddenly challenging Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele to a match on the first tee.
Schauffele was running behind so Mickelson stalled, blasting a few extra drives and checking his numbers on FlightScope. Just as Mickelson and Rahm started down the fairway, Schauffele got within shouting distance and Mickelson more or less asked, do you want a piece of us?
With storm clouds over head, Schauffele pointed out that lightning was in the forecast. “As long as you’re OK playing fast,” Schauffele said.
“We’ll be done at 6. We’ll have won 4&3,” Mickelson said.
Shots fired. To which Cantlay jumped in and said, “You’ve got the No. 1 (player in the world) and you’re talking smack again?”
“I’ve been quiet for a while,” Mickelson said with a smirk.
And then Phil, charitable guy that he is, added, “Feel free to take a mulligan on the first.”
Cantlay responded with a zinger: “Does that mean you’re not going to play your drive in the left trees?”
“It means I’m going to play the one in the trees on the right,” Mickelson said.
It sounded like any Phil Mickelson Tuesday money game of the past 25 years and it warmed my heart for a quick moment. This is what I’ve missed covering golf’s resumption from my home office. Sadly, the skies opened up not long after, which means this match could be over before it ever really started.
Memphis, after all, is known for its rain delays. It was here during a suspension of play in 2016 that Mickelson placed a wager that paid dividends. He told Colt Knost that Rahm was planning to turn pro after the U.S. Open and that he already was a top-10 player in the world.
“I was like, What are you talking about?” Knost told Golf Channel.
Knost reportedly gave Mickelson 2-to-1 odds that Rahm would reach the top 10 within a year of turning pro, and Rahm did just that by May 2017. He climbed to World No. 1 for the first time after winning The Memorial two weeks ago. Knost has been mum about how much the best cost him, except to say that it “had a comma” in it, he told Golf Channel.
“I’ve talked to Phil and Colt and I remember when it happened, because I think I had just played with Phil,” Rahm recalled Tuesday during his pre-tournament interview at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational. “I was about to finish my senior year . I actually let know, hey, I want a piece of .”