Thursday, May 01, 2008

Mickelson mingles with the masses

Phil Mickelson had finished the bulk of his day's work Thursday, signing for a 4-under par 68 that left him one stroke off the early first-round lead in the Wachovia Championship and he had handled a quick group of radio and television interviews outside the clubhouse.

Before lunch and before a visit to the media center, Mickelson grabbed a Sharpie from his back pocket and walked over to where a couple hundred fans had squeezed themselves close to an iron railing, hoping to get a moment and a signature from him.

He could have ducked inside, relaxed in the leather furniture inside the locker room and left the world outside. But Mickelson took the time to go sign as many caps and tickets and programs as he could. It's part of what Mickelson does and a big reason why he's popular in a different way than Tiger Woods is.

Mickelson smiled and chatted with the fans, including a man named Dee Hunt, who had found himself in the line of fire when Phil's tee shot went left off the fifth tee. The ball caught Hunt between the shoulders and fell down in the left rough.

"He had a good lie in the rough but it came off my shoulder," Hunt said.

Mickelson had already taken a moment to sign his white glove -- "Sorry, Phil Mickelson," it said -- and given it to Hunt.

For 10 minutes, Mickelson stood and signed for others, talking, bringing a few laughs, having a good time with his fans.

He was one shot off the lead, feeling good about his game again and happy to be Phil.