JERSEY CITY, N.J. — Phil Mickelson watched his four-ball partner Kevin Kisner sink a 7-foot putt on the 17th green to clinch their Saturday morning match. Scrapping the celebratory dance they’d performed after a win one day earlier, they simply hugged. The man who’s never missed a Presidents Cup, who already owned the all-time points record, had just established a new mark for the most victories in the event’s still-budding history.
He then walked straight over to his family. His wife Amy, daughter Sophia and son Evan were waiting nearby — oldest daughter Amanda is away at college — fully armed with wide smiles at his latest accomplishment.
He put his arms around them and found a willing photographer.
“Can you take a picture of the four of us?” he asked.
The first time Mickelson ever represented the United States in a team competition, he was 24 years old. He used a persimmon driver that week, teaming with Tom Lehman. Three of his current teammates were still in diapers.
Now 47, it’s realistic to believe this could be the last time we ever see the unsinkable lefthander in this type of situation. It’s fathomable that the next the U.S. team tees it up in competition, he will be equipped with a walkie-talkie and earpiece, joining other men from the same generation.
This was no time for reminiscences, though.
Mickelson wasn’t preserving the moment with a photo because it might be one of his last. He wasn’t allowing himself time to consider his career as he basked in the afterglow.
“Not while we’re still playing, not while I’m still trying to play in more,” he said. “Maybe toward the end I’ll look back, and I’ll look back at the highlights and the many moments. But right now, I’m just trying to create more.”
He continued by explaining that his memories will revolve less around the individual accomplishments than the team successes.
“I think about it more as experiences rather than records,” he added. “I have a lot of experiences, and those are the things that I really cherish.”
In his dozen appearances at the Presidents Cup — yes, that’s a perfect attendance record — Mickelson hasn’t had many experiences like this week.
The United States team has dominated in unprecedented fashion, while Mickelson himself has formed one-half of the squad’s daunting Odd Couple, pairing with Kevin Kisner to post a 2-0-1 mark in team matches.
“He’s California, I’m redneck South Carolina,” Kisner offered in his familiar drawl. “He said, ‘You know, we’re a little different, we eat different foods and talk about different things, but I think we’re going to really have fun.’ … If y’all had a mic on us, y’all would’ve had so much content to go over, because we didn’t shut up for 53 holes.”
“They’ve been giggling all week,” she told her. “Giggles for a week, these two.”
It wasn’t all fun and games.
Afterward — and before they each sat out for the afternoon four-ball session — Kisner still seemed overwhelmed that his debut performance for a national team wasn’t simply an unmitigated success, it came alongside one of the game’s legendary players.
“I couldn’t have asked for a cooler partner, man,” he said. “He was so much fun to be with. He never gets down and he’s so positive out there. That’s so much fun to be around … I’ll always look back and think about who I played with. Nobody can ever take that from me. I played with a Hall of Famer and we did great together. No matter what happens in my future, that will always be something I look at.”
Even though Mickelson wouldn’t admit this was a time for retrospection, he couldn’t help himself.
He looked over at Amy and the kids, now standing near his brother and caddie Tim, and answered a question about what it meant to have them there with him.
“My kids are at an age where they appreciate these moments now,” he explained. “They couldn’t understand what it meant when they were little. Now that they’re teenagers, for them to share these moments means a lot to me. Plus when they look at me like I’m cool, it means a lot. You know what I mean. As a dad, when your kids look at you a certain way, it means a lot.”
He smiled again at the thought. A few minutes later, he walked back to them and put his arms around them again. He summoned another photographer and asked for another picture to be taken.
In moments like these, he just can’t get enough.