Mickelson set to woo New York again
Do you remember Detective Andy Sipowicz? It's not often you start a golf blog talking about a fictitious cop, I know, but on this occasion indulge me because I think he's pertinent to the upcoming US Open at Bethpage, New York.
Sipowicz was a no-nonsense lead character in the long-running TV drama NYPD Blue and his blunt straight-talking tell-it-like-it-is style was a wonderfully observed take on New Yorkers.
There's a risk of serious stereotyping here but the inhabitants of this huge metropolis seem to know how it is; they are discerning people and know a fake or phoney when they see one. That was certainly the case with the unsmiling Det. Sipowicz, anyway.
This, in golfing terms, can tell us a lot because there was no more popular figure at Bethpage than Phil Mickelson the last time the US Open was staged there in 2002 when he was runner-up to Tiger Woods.
Some people see 'Lefty' as a fake and phoney. They see his ever-present smile and bonhomie and condemn them as a front but not in New York they don't - and not in this blogger's house either. I've heard too many good stories about the man that go far beyond being just an autograph hunter's dream.
Rank and file European Tour players who have been drawn with Mickelson at events like the Open and Scottish Open have nothing but praise for the way he conducts himself.
Mickelson doesn't do many one-on-one interviews but when he sat down with me a few Loch Lomonds ago he was as open as he was charming and didn't dodge the then awkward question of when would he break his major duck.
Stories of charity work for which he seeks no publicity occasionally leak into the public domain but he never seems to want to trade on the resulting good publicity.
And there have been instances when he has taken the time to call reporters when they've been struggling with illness or other difficulties. Normal, decent behaviour - it's called being a good bloke.
I've only heard witness of one less than savoury incident, when he chewed off a media officer for taking him on a route that exposed him to autograph hunters at the Valhalla Ryder Cup at a time when 'Lefty' was not for signing.
Let's cut him some slack for that because Mickelson's career tells us he makes more time than most for his Sharpie (Ed: autograph marker pen) and certainly more time than the only man above him in the rankings, Woods.
Furthermore he is prepared to lay himself open to the public with much of his self-analysis. "I'm such an idiot," was his famous quote when he blew the 2006 US Open at Winged Foot.
The three-time major winner is a fabulous ambassador for the game and we'll see why when we view the raucous reception he receives from the Bethpage crowds.
It will, of course, be tinged, or rather fuelled, with sympathy given the plight of Mickelson's ever popular wife Amy as she battles breast cancer.
The signs are that his season may come to a premature end at the conclusion of the US Open as he devotes himself full time to Amy's recovery.
Despite all this, Mickelson found time to sign autographs for waiting fans when he did his recent Bethpage prep round, which included seven hours hard graft plotting the course.
This tells us he is serious about this US Open despite his preoccupation with Amy's condition. "Obviously we are going through a tough time at the moment. Yeah we're certainly scared. I think a lot of it is the unknown," he told reporters this week.
"You know we've learned a lot in the last couple of weeks. We believe we have incredible doctors, we believe we have caught this early. But we won't know this until a week or two after surgery.
"I've never been this emotional where if I'm driving alone or what have you, I'll just start crying. It's kind of a weird thing."
Mickelson sees the golf he is playing at this week's St Jude Classic and then at Bethpage as something of a release.
"I'm looking forward to a having a four or five-hour mental break where I force myself to focus on something else," he explained.
Four times Mickelson has been runner-up in his country's national championship. There is nothing the Bethpage crowds will want to see more than for him to go one better and secure his first US Open at the place that seems to have become the Californian's spiritual golfing home.
And wouldn't it be an extraordinary story were he to do it at a time when golf is far further down his pecking order of priorities than is usual?
No-one would complain in New York, and even Detective Sipowicz might even summon an uncharacteristic smile at the prospect.