DETROIT – Phil Mickelson hasn’t ruled out a return to Detroit in 2022, but neither has he ruled it out.
Whatever the six-time major champion decides, it will be based on his schedule, rather than his sprawling beef with the media that made headlines during Rocket Mortgage Classic week earlier this month.
Jason Langwell, tournament director, told The Detroit News this week that he had a conversation with Mickelson when the fan-favorite left-handed man walked over to his car after completing his Sunday lap.
“And he couldn’t have appreciated the golf course and the experience better,” Langwell said this week. “I think his return … the factors of his return will be no different than if there was no (article): it fits my schedule.
“Based on that (conversation), it won’t be because he doesn’t come back (article).”
Mickelson, 51, played a tournament in Michigan for the first time since the 2008 PGA Championship, finishing 3 in 74th place.
But he did what he was brought here to do: sell tickets. Mickelson committed to the tournament at the end of May and had to drop out in 2020 due to the changed schedule amid COVID-19. On the day he signed up, Rocket Mortgage Classic officials saw a significant surge in ticket interest that increased 3-4 times.
That was significant as the Rocket 2021 only had about a month to sell tickets, as the state didn’t announce the lifting of outdoor capacity restrictions until late May, starting on June 1.
Despite this short window of time – in the opening year 2019 there were three months advance ticket sales (in 2020 there were no fans) – the number of visitors was at the level of 2019, Langwell said. Despite several days of bad weather. The PGA Tour has always declined to disclose specific attendance numbers, but the first Rocket Mortgage Classic is believed to have attracted at least 40,000 and possibly up to 50,000 viewers.
If the Rocket 2021 got close, that was achieved despite limited ticket sales for Tuesday’s training round and AREA 3-1-3’s celebrity scramble. Wednesday through Sunday were the only days for standing tickets.
“We felt really good about the attendance,” Langwell said, adding that the daily numbers were more even than 2019. “People were ready to come out.”
Langwell said the numbers on Thursday were bigger than in 2019, when the PGA Tour was very impressed with the attendance on Thursday. The biggest days in 2021 were Friday and Saturday.
Interestingly, the Friday round took place the day after Mickelson said in a post-round press conference that he would not be returning to Detroit because he was upset by a Detroit News article that revealed a past gambling connection with a mob-affiliated bookmaker from Big Pointe- Park. He even fired a series of tweets about his displeasure during Thursday’s more than three-hour rain delay.
The crowd on Friday following Mickelson and Rickie Fowler was huge, many fans wearing custom t-shirts and many shouting, “Come back, Phil!” and “We love you, Phil!” Speaking to the media after the round, Mickelson changed his mindset from Thursday and said he would actually be back – “I’ll be in,” he said – if and when 50,000 Metro Detroiters sign a petition started by a local sports fan each of the signatories performed an arbitrary kindness to someone in the community (the petition had close to 13,000 signatures as of Friday). change his mind.
He had the fans in his corner – if he had given the fans even more thumbs up, his glove wouldn’t have fitted – and the Detroit Golf Club too.
“I don’t think it helped anyone,” said Mark Douglas, president of the Detroit Golf Club. “I just thought it was bad timing; it wasn’t news or newsworthy in my opinion.”
Mickelson’s Beef seemed like an old story, although “old news” by definition means it was reported previously – and it wasn’t – as well as the date that was published the Tuesday before the tournament started. Deposit logs were unsealed three years ago and discovered by The News while reporting on a lawsuit last month. He won a $ 500,000 bet and was never paid out. He was not accused of wrongdoing in the article. Mickelson also suggested that The News should positively promote the event.
It is very likely that Mickelson’s comments on Thursday resulted in more ticket sales for Friday and his comments on Friday resulted in more ticket sales for Saturday. Langwell couldn’t confirm that, and it was difficult to keep track of as there were no walk-up sales this year. Fans spurred on by Mickelson should have bought tickets online. One thing is certain: Mickelson attracted the masses and brought the tournament much more national attention.
At the end of the week, Rocket Mortgage had come to welcome the saga and to distribute the petition to fans through flyers and stickers with QR codes that were scattered around the golf course. The petition is on the tournament website.
“The Phil factor,” said Langwell, “we really saw it from the front” when the tickets went on sale.
Urged to comment on the swelling crowds around him on Friday and Saturday, Langwell said with a laugh, “It seemed we noticed from the gallery management side.”
Mickelson came to Detroit after playing at the US Open in San Diego and the Travelers Championship in Connecticut for the past two weeks. It was the first time this season that he played three weeks in a row. Then, after finishing his stay in Detroit, he went to Montana to play the television show with Bryson DeChambeau, Tom Brady, and Aaron Rodgers.
The schedule of the PGA Tour 2021-22 will be published in the coming weeks. The next season starts shortly after the end of this season with the Tour Championship from September 2-5. If next season goes similar to this, the Rocket would fall two weeks after the US Open and two weeks before the British Open. Mickelson will compete in these and has remained loyal to the Travelers, whom he has won twice, for a long time.
Whether it had to do with the busy schedule, Mickelson opened the British Open on Thursday with a 10 over 80. He finished 12th on Friday. The winner of the 2021 PGA Championship missed the cut.