DETROIT — Please come back, Phil.
Yes, I’m asking. And I know I’m asking a lot. But I hope Phil Mickelson decides to be the bigger man, changes his mind and decides to return to the Rocket Mortgage Classic next year.
Mickelson was the story of the tournament during Thursday’s first round at Detroit Golf Club. And not because of his strong round of 3-under-par 69.
He was the story because he tweeted during a long rain delay that he won’t come back after a Detroit News article was published Tuesday about a $500,000 wager that a Grosse Pointe bookie cheated him out of more than 20 years ago.
After Mickelson’s round, I asked him if indeed his mind was made up and he wasn’t coming back.
Give Mickelson credit. He didn’t back down: “Yeah, I don’t see that happening. I don’t see me coming back. Not that I don’t love the people here. They have been great. But not with that type of thing happening.”
And that’s a damn shame. No matter what side you come down on — what you thought of the Detroit News article, whether Mickelson was being too sensitive — the tournament needs the kind of rare star power that Mickelson provides. That’s exactly what I wrote in May.
The whole episode was debated endlessly in the media room, mostly because we had way too much time on our hands during the 3 hour, 15 minute rain delay.
I can understand how Mickelson might have felt ambushed in some way. He’s very protective of his public image. But I think this tournament and what Mickelson means to it is bigger than image and hurt feelings.
Mickelson mentioned his good intentions behind attending the tournament and helping the Detroit community. If he’s sincere about that, I hope he rethinks his decision once he has time to cool off in the coming weeks. I hope he remembers the cheers I heard for him on the ninth hole and all around the course, where he was greeted by fans yelling, “Let’s go, Phil!”