Phil Mickelson made his first career appearance at the third annual Rocket Mortgage Classic this week in Detroit. It also might've been his last. Speaking with reporters on Thursday, the 51-year-old said he can't imagine making an attempt to return to the event after The Detroit News resurfaced a decades-old story in which he was once allegedly swindled by a bookie in Michigan, costing him hundreds of thousands of dollars.
"To play here was hard; I wouldn't normally do it. I usually take a couple weeks off after the U.S. Open," Mickelson said. "But I really liked what Rocket Mortgage has tried to do with this community. And I felt like, as a PGA Champion, I would be able to bring some value and maybe help the tournament out. And I feel that [The Detroit News] made an article this week that was very opportunistic and selfish and irresponsible. When you have a divisive voice like that, you can't bring people together."
Mickelson perceived the newspaper article as an unnecessary personal attack, saying on Twitter in response to criticism that it was "more a smear attempt." The story reported on obtained federal court records from a jury trial that took place in 2007.
"It was so much effort for me to be here," Mickelson added. "To have that type of unnecessary attack -- it's not like I care, I mean it happened 20-something years ago. But it's just the lack of appreciation. Yeah, I don't see that happening. I don't see me coming back. Not that I don't love the people here and they haven't been great, but not with that type of thing happening."
Mickelson was great on the course Thursday, firing an opening-round 69 to put him T40 on the leaderboard entering Friday. After winning the PGA Championship in May, he missed the cut at the Charles Schwab and finished outside the top 50 at both the U.S. Open and Travelers Championship, yet he looks to be rounding back into form with The Match on deck for next week and The Open Championship on July 15.
"I played really well," said Mickelson post-round. He added on Twitter: "My swing feels like Kiawah again after playing so so the last two weeks. Just in time for The Match."
After Round 2 on Friday evening, the story took a pretty interesting twist. Mickelson received a tweet from a man named Mike Sullivan, who is from Michigan and asked Lefty if he got 50,000 folks to sign a petition if he would return to this tournament. Mickelson tweeted back at him, "Maybe." The petition currently has just over 10,000 signatures.
"I don't want to be divisive," Mickelson said after Round 2. "I didn't like the way that felt with the reporter. The people here were so nice that I'll make a deal with them. There's a guy named Mike Sullivan that's trying to raise 50,000 signatures. If he gets 50,000 and all of those 50,000 agree to do one random act of kindness for another member of the community, I'm in.
"I just think that this tournament has sponsors, from Rocket Mortgage to a lot of the local sponsors to a lot of the people in the community, that are trying to come together and do something good for the community. If the members of the community will come together, I would love to be back, but what I won't tolerate is that kind of divisive attitude from that particular reporter. It's just not helpful to anybody in any way."