JERSEY CITY, NJ – It wasn’t exactly Rumble in the Jungle by Muhammad Ali and George Forman, but Phil Mickelson and Joel Dahmen’s Tuesday morning match against Harry Higgs and Keith Mitchell caught everyone’s attention at Liberty National Golf Club.
Smiles and giggles were everywhere as the four of them went to the first tee at 10 o’clock. Rory McIlroy scrambled across the fairway before teeing off on the second hole to catch the action, and Harris English called over a series of hills on the 14th update to the score.
In the end, Mickelson and Dahman came back down through four holes from 2 and won the 18-hole match, 3 and 1.
“I think we were all looking forward to playing today, which is great,” said Mickelson afterwards. “We had a great time and we really got the right result. I think we had the result that we all really expected and I think we are hoping for. “
It was a classic Mickelson Smack Talk on a day full of zingers. If you haven’t followed this saga before, here is the back story.
On the Sunday before the start of the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational, Higgs decided to answer questions from his Twitter followers. People asked about the best shot Higgs had ever seen, the best shot he had ever taken, and so on. Then a follower asked Higgs this:
I will play with everyone. And I don’t think @PhilMickelson is ready for my trash talk
– Harry Higgs (@ harryhiggs1991) July 26, 2021
Everyone talks until I’m invited to one of your coveted matches Big Guy !! 😎
– Harry Higgs (@ harryhiggs1991) July 26, 2021
Mickelson then invited Higgs to play a match during WGC-FedEx St. Jude that week, knowing that Higgs had not qualified for the event.
Tuesday morning, after more good-natured back and forth on Twitter, the match continued, although neither player revealed how much was at stake.
After Mitchell’s tee shot into the water on the first hole, Higgs made a birdie and won the hole to take a 1-up lead.
“Do you want Par or Keith as your partner today?” Mickelson asked.
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Twenty minutes later, after Mickelson’s second shot on the third hole clearly missed the green, Higgs retaliated and called out, “Hey Joel, would you like a par as a partner?”
Instead of letting Mickelson hit his pitch shot, Dahmen putted from 3 meters away and made his birdie. Mickelson then began to think about how golfers tend to miss putts on the high side of the hole when they have to do hole bisecting putts. Of course, he talked loud enough to let Higgs and Mitchell hear what the point was, but Mitchell made his birdie putt anyway.
“Paht-nah!” yelled Higgs.
After falling through four holes, Dahmen made a birdie on the fifth hole to win. Then Mickelsons Drive turned right on the sixth enough to stop on the seventh fairway. But he hit a great swing and then did an eagle putt to win the hole and square the match before birdieing on the seventh put and dahmen 1 up.
During the game, Mickelson tweeted live.
It all comes together now folks. Joel and I both have birdie 13 to go 2 up and everyone here (and on Twitter) can sense the inevitable. We should have Keith off class well before his 2:30 pm deadline. You’re welcome, as Bubba would say 😏
– Phil Mickelson (@PhilMickelson) August 17, 2021
On the 17th hole, after Higgs and Mitchell missed their birdie putts, Mickelson called out to Dahmen. “Let’s end this with an exclamation mark.”
Dahmen then rolled in a 30-foot birdie putt to give him and Mickelson their 3 and 1 wins.
“We lost. That would be the extent of my attitude,” said Higgs after leaving the 18th green. “I shut up and a Hall of Famer put me in my place. But it was fun to be with Going out Phil, Joel is a great friend and Keith is a great friend too. We had fun. I would have loved to win, but I think it was good preparation. I got some nerves at times, that was a little important. You want to Hit Phil and everyone else you play with, but it took some nerve preparation, it was fun, nice to experience that on a Tuesday when you usually just walk around looking for places to go has to hit and doesn’t have to hit. “
All four players wanted to win, but the most interesting thing about the match was seeing how 51-year-old Mickelson interacted with his partner Dahmen, 33, as well as Higgs, 29 and Mitchell, 29. On several occasions he gave Dahmen a reading on putts and explained his philosophy on putting and green reading. He answered Mitchell’s questions about golf balls and gave Higgs advice on the 17th green on how to be himself and not be afraid to have fun on the course, because then Higgs will play his best golf.
“Phil and I are similar in that our real selves are somewhat vivid, if you will. I don’t know if I’m using the right word here, but it’s a big word and it sounded good, ”Higgs said. “I know my top performing self is a show-off, someone who interacts here and there. (Phil) put it great, saying there are times when you need to use it because you know it will help you and other times when you don’t give it power and basically care about your business have to take care of on and off the golf course. “
It’s the kind of advice John Daly could have used 25 years ago, and which Higgs, who has built a cult following thanks to his fun-loving, go-anywhere appeal, should be well followed.
So will there be a rematch?
“The key is to win in a way that isn’t so dominant that you think you can win and then come back to me,” Mickelson said, speaking like a shark in a pond of goldfish. “I think they are. I think they will come back for me and that was really the challenge for Joel and me.”
Check the treadmill: Liberty National for the Northern Trust