Why We Should All Aspire To Be Like Lefty: A Tribute to Phil Mickelson

Adam LawrenceContributor IJune 22, 2009

FARMINGDALE, NY - JUNE 21:  Phil Mickelson walks past fans to the 18th tee during the continuation of the third round of the 109th U.S. Open on the Black Course at Bethpage State Park on June 21, 2009 in Farmingdale, New York.  (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)

On Monday morning, Phil Mickelson will jump back to the final round of the 2009 U.S. Open.

While he is only five strokes back, he is in a tie for third, and has a very good chance of beating out two very mediocre players in Ricky Barnes and Lucas Glover.

But that has nothing to do with this article.

As we all know, Phil is struggling through his wife's recent news of breast cancer, and is playing under the most brutal conditions golf has to offer: The U.S. Open.

I have been around golf for several years, and, during that time, I have heard many people have claim Lefty to be fake, unimpressive, and poor in the clutch.

While there was a part of me that thought Phil was a little egocentric and did not deserve to be considered among golf's elite because of his refusal to challenge Tiger over the last decade, I now realize why Mickelson is a man all of us should look up to.

After Johnny Miller made a comment about Mickelson always recognizing the fans that were spread throughout Bethpage Black, I paid some attention to Phil for the remainder of the Open.

And I didn't care about how he hit the ball.

Mickelson is one of the most gracious individuals to have ever played any sport, and it shows.

On every hole, he is high-fiving fans and acknowledging even the most fair-weather supporter.

His positive energy is something that everyone should admire, and, while Tiger Woods was dropping f-bombs after poor drives on national television, Lefty was calmly taking his beats in stride, going on to make seven birdies after struggling early.

I am not meaning to call out the greatest player in golf, but no one shows the same enthusiasm for being able to compete than Phil, and, in a time where he is coping with the thought of losing his wife, this is even more admirable.

While Tiger's intensity has propelled him to one of the greatest careers in golf, Mickelson's optimism and enthusiasm for the sport have done nearly the same for him.

Here is a guy that is going through something so horrible, something many people people my age have never experienced, yet is coping with it in one of the most gracious and positive manners I have ever thought possible.

Mickelson has not just put aside the worries about his wife, but he is here to compete, and this is very clear when he sets foot on each hole.

There were pundits who have been critical of Mickelson's entire career, yet today, he has finally shunned them all.

In a sport as mentally challenging as golf, Mickelson has taken his wife's cancer as well as possible, and no one has the right to criticize the courageous way in which he has handled the situation.

On top of all of this, Phil has had arguably the best season thus far on Tour.

With two first place finishes and a variety of cuts made, Mickelson is putting together one of his greatest seasons yet.

But to me, none of this matters.

Phil has proved to me why there are still true athletes left in the world.

Phil isn't here for money, for fame, or any other externality that comes from competing in the U.S. Open.

He is here to compete, to show all of us why he deserves his name on the championship trophy as much as anyone else, and to win for his wife, who is struggling through something more painful than I can imagine.

Even with the hardships he is most recently facing, Phil has maintained the same positive attitude that makes anyone want to play golf—for fun.

A lot of us forget this when we step out on the tee, and especially when we see PGA Tour players like Woody Austin break putters after a few putts slide by the hole.

But Mickelson continuously plays the sport for the right reasons, and has always maintained the same attitude and energy throughout his entire career.

Phil Mickelson is someone we should all look up to, and its not just because of the way he is playing for his wife in the U.S. Open.

It's the way in which he is playing; a manner that I don't believe anyone could replicate.

Phil isn't just a professional golfer, he's a professional citizen—a guy we should all admire, and not just when we tee off.