Mickelson on path to greatness

By Jason A. Vrtis

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Justice was finally served to golfer Phil Mickelson.

As a 20-year-old amateur in 1991, the then-Arizona State superstar captured the Northern Telecom Open title, but not a penny of the prize money.

Last Sunday and four years later at Tucson National, Mickelson repeated as champion, and this time he walked away with the $225,000 top prize.

With his victory, Mickelson became the first golfer ever to win the same tournament both as an amateur and as a pro.

"The win today means a lot to me because this is a special place. The win in '91 just launched my career," said Mickelson, who now makes his home in Scottsdale and was followed by large galleries throughout the tournament.

"When I would miss a 10-to 12-foot putt that I expected to make, some of the fans would just go, 'Come on, let's get it going. Hang in there.' It just gave me a little bit of a boost," Mickelson said.

When asked if he would be the next to carry the Young American Star banner on the tour, Mickelson responded: "The only times I've really thought about it is when I read an article about it."

Although just 24, Mickelson has already won four tournaments and is well on his way to becoming a star on the PGA Tour.

The win was also significant for Mickelson because it helped him pick up some important points to be used toward the U.S. Ryder Cup team.

"I've never made a Ryder Cup team before, and that is an important goal of mine," Mickelson said.

At ASU, Mickelson was a first-team All-American four times from 1989-92 and he won both the 1990 U.S. Amateur Championship and the NCAA title, becoming the first amateur to achieve the feat since Jack Nicklaus did it in 1961, and the first left-hander ever to win the U.S. Amateur.

Although things went smoothly for Mickelson Sunday, that was not the case on

his flight down to Tucson last Tuesday night. Mickelson, who is a week away from receiving his pilot's license, was flying a single-engine Cessna 172 that had no de-icing capabilities when he was forced to land because he could not see through the thick clouds.

After trying to wait the storm out in Eloy, Mickelson returned home to Phoenix and ended up driving to Tucson.

With his new pilot's license, Mickelson will be able to fly to those remote airports near ski resorts and lakes to indulge his love for snow and water skiing. However, it has not been all smooth sailing for Mickelson at least on the slopes. Last March he suffered a fractured left femur and hairline fracture of his right ankle while skiing at the Arizona Snow Bowl. He still carries a rod in his femur.

Mickelson, a native of San Diego, could be seen sporting a lightning bolt on his collar Sunday, showing his support for the Super Bowl-bound Chargers. He will play in the Phoenix Open next week, but when asked about the Super Bowl, he joked: "If I happen to shoot a little high the first two rounds, oh well I'll be off to Miami."

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