Phil Mickelson is made for the TV broadcast booth.
Tony Romo is the gold standard of sports TV analysts.
Tony Romo was an underrated quarterback. He's a better announcer.
Phil Mickelson is no Tony Romo. And that’s more than all right. In fact, it’s absolutely wonderful. When Mickelson popped into the TV booth with Houston’s own Jim Nantz and Nick Faldo after completing his third round at the PGA Championship, he tried to pull off some Tony Romo level predictions.
Phil’s prognosticating did not exactly go smoothly.
Mickelson was certain Jason Day would make a 45-foot-plus putt. Day didn’t. He was convinced Haotong Li would rebound from an early bogey with a birdie or two right away. Li didn’t.
OK, Phil Mickelson is not going to be the play predicting Romo of golf. Who cares? Everything else he does in the booth is crazy good. Mickelson goes into the booth cold and instantly makes it his, bringing a complete fresh blast of fun. Mickelson even turns the usually excellent Faldo into a bit player.
In fact, Faldo seems lost at times by Mickelson’s wit. Nantz, who gets the best brought out of him by having Romo with him in the CBS football booth, clearly gets a kick out of Mickelson.
“Saucy. I like that,” Mickelson cracks after Dustin Johnson hits a bunker shot close to the pin.
Mickelson makes golf talk beyond entertaining. If this is a glimpse of what the 50-year-old Mickelson can be like as a full-time golf commentator, every network that broadcasts the game should be requesting a meeting right now.
Everyone knew that Mickelson is one of professional sports’ ultimate extroverts. He could have a 20-minute conversation with a Walgreens clerk. But there are plenty of extroverts who struggle in the TV booth. Telling succinct and excellent stories, reacting to what’s happening with aplomb and remembering you’re supposed to make it fun for the viewer does not come easy to most.
For Phil Mickelson, it apparently does.
He did a great job of removing the mystery around Li, an unknown figure to most American golf fans, and shedding some light on his personality. Mickelson calls Li one of the funnier guys on the PGA Tour — and then adds more.
“You can’t help but pull for the guy,” he continues. “He’s such a nice guy.
“And he plays No. 7 golf balls. I just like that.”
Yes, Phil Mickelson is a little wacky and irreverent. That plays well on TV. Especially in a pro sports arena full of announcers who take themselves way too seriously. Romo shares some of those same qualities.
Poking a little fun at yourself also always plays well on TV. Many rookie announcers are still loath to do that, though. They’re insecure (maybe understandably) and worried about giving up some of their authority (even if they really haven’t earned any).
Like Tony Romo before him, Phil Mickelson could care less about that. In fact, he called himself out on his failed Romo-style attempts at forecasting the immediate athletic future.
“So I’m 0 for 2 on my predictions,” Mickelson notes on air. This announcing thing might not be my thing.”
Only, it very much is.
This first golf major of the coronavirus era is set up for a potentially epic finish. Former No. 1 Dustin Johnson takes a one-shot lead into Sunday’s final round. Texans Scottie Scheffler and Cameron Champ (Texas A&M) are one shot back and majors collector Brooks Koepka is one of 11 golfers within three shots. The almost comically muscle bound Bryson DeChambeau — Mr. Snapping His Drive Mid Swing himself — is among that packed group.
That is a heck of leaderboard — even with Tiger Woods no where in sight. Yet, the best part of this PGA Championship at San Francisco’s somewhat overrated Harding Park so far just may be a little over an hour of Phil Mickelson in the booth on Saturday afternoon.
That’s real unmistakable TV star power.