Group Hug for Phil Mickelson

The debacle at the fourth hole (Getty Images)

What were we just saying about I.K. Kim? Time to envelop Lefty in a group hug for his near miss at the 2012 Masters. If you’re a Philly fan, that is. One of my friends who was over for our Easter feast and Masters viewing yesterday was cackling about Phil’s misfortune while rooting for Miguel Angel Jimenez. (This in vain, as Jimenez crashed and burned yesterday with an 81, going five-over on the last three holes.)

I was pulling for Phil, though, and hated to see the debacle on the fourth hole. In an otherwise fine three-under round, the triple at the par-3 left him even par on the day, and two strokes shy of making the playoff.

Even a bogey on the fourth hole would have at least put Phil in the hunt with Louis Oosthuizen and eventual winner Bubba Watson. If he walked off four with a par he would have won the tournament.

Although that last paragraph is true only if you don’t agree about the Fallacy of the Predetermined Outcome.

The what? I first heard of this in baseball terms, as the Theory of the Predetermined Hit. So, in baseball terms, say Daniel Murphy of the Mets doubles. David Wright comes to bat, but Murphy gets picked off second. Then Wright homers, and everyone says the Mets would have had two runs if bonehead Murphy hadn’t been picked off.

David Wright celebrates a round-tripper (Getty Images)

It’s not so, because there’s no certainty–absolutely no predetermination–that Wright would homer if Murphy wasn’t picked off. After all, everything would have been different–the pitcher’s motion, the way the infield set up, the pitch selection, not to mention Wright’s own perceptions. If Murphy were still sagely perched on second, there’s nothing to say that Wright couldn’t just as easily strike out. Sure, he might hit a home run, and the Mets might score two runs. But there’s no guarantee.

It’s no different in golf. If Phil walked off the fourth hole with a par he might have gone on to garner three birdies and the win. But with all new variables–the hole played more quickly, the wind perhaps freshening at a different time on a different hole, the reactions of other players to Phil’s total on the scoreboard, not to mention Phil’s own perceptions–there’s nothing to say that he wouldn’t have blown up on another hole. Or something else might have happened.

Or if Oosthuizen’s remarkable albatross did not make its long and incredible journey across the second hole green, who knows what change that would have precipitated in the brains of Mickelson or Watson, who was playing with Louis?

It’s like the old time-space continuum from the “Back to the Future” films. Change one thing, and every other anticipated thing can go haywire.

Still, it’s only human nature to speculate on what might have been. And no doubt Phil has done plenty of that already.

All the golf pundits were predicting an exciting Masters going into the tournament, and so it was, but probably for none of the reasons prophesized. No complaints, though. The lasting memories will come down to three shots–Michelson’s gaffe, Oosthuizen’s double eagle, and Watson’s recovery shot on the second playoff hole to set up his winning par.

Related Posts:
Masters Redux: Mickelson Pulls Off the Great Shot
Phil Mickelson With a Glazed (Donut) Look in His Eye
Oh Oh Oh!
Group Hug for I.K. Kim

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4 Responses to “Group Hug for Phil Mickelson”

  1. Joe O

    Great stuff, Tom. I, too, was pulling for Lefty, but the right side of his brain got in the way of his left when he took his drive so far left on No. 4. (Presuming I have the right and left brain stuff right, er correct.)Then his left side shut down (out of protest) for a couple decisions on the next two shots. By then it was too late. He reached out and passed the torch for left-handed daring and creativity to Bubba, who was a happy and worthy recipient. In the end, it was as good as it can get on Masters Sunday.

  2. Gregg Smith

    Okay, even if I buy into your argument (and I’m not sayin’)….

    I’d re-title the subject line something like.. “Why it’s tough to back Phil” or how about “Group Hug? Why not Group Therapy?”

    What gets me is that every time I’m just about to start rooting for Phil he does something like this…. I mean … crap… if I’m playing a mean-nothing, jerk-around, beer-drinkin’ game with my buddies I might attempt the same whack and thrash. But in a tournament the only smart move was declaring an unplayable …..

    I too had friends over and when Phil got to his ball I said out loud, “Oh God, not again…” one of them asked what… and my response was, another Phil, bone-head, poor decision… I know we can say there goes another solid shot at another major… and just as easily we could also temper it with your stated case….

    Point is… how many times (and let’s just talk about majors) can Phil potentially toss these tournaments away with poor decisions…. you know, things like… ‘Well, a tree is 90% air, so…..” etc, etc



  3. Joe O

    Totally agree, Gregg. At our gathering I uttered similar words: “This is what you are in for as a Lefty fan.” For all the talk of the great relationship between Phil and Bones, Bones sure can’t stop the mental train wreck when it starts rollin’ down the tracks. He should carry a tazer in the bag just for these types of situations. Definite arrggh.

  4. Tom Bedell

    I wonder if Bones rolls his eyes, or just enjoys the thrill ride? Phil can drive his fans nuts, so to speak, but isn’t that part of the fun of watching him? At least he pays attention to his fans, which is more than we can say of TW, Mr. Frosty.

    But as Phil said in 2010, after his incredible shot on thirteen, “A great shot is when you pull it off. A smart shot is when you don’t have the guts to try it.” Maybe Phil contents himself with Old Lodge Skins theory from “Little Big Man”: “Sometimes the magic works. Sometimes it doesn’t.”

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