I understand why athletes are reticent to open up to the media, but those who do speak become darlings, or at least they do in golf, and none more so than Phil Mickelson. The PGA Tour should hire Phil to teach other players that the writers who sit in front of them after a round are hungry only to tell the story in a unique way. Phil helps them do that with anecdotes and honesty, all the while sprinkling in the questioners' names to show respect and get some too. This approach lightens the atmosphere and produces the perfect give-and-take. At the Players another pro showed that he, too, understood how to give the scribes a story.
Kevin Na disarmed would-be critics when he laughed at his inability to pull the trigger, apologized and admitted to a little self-loathing. In the process he showed he didn't take himself too seriously, and that he understood the needs of those whose job it was to put into print what no golfer wants to talk about. It was entertaining and lighthearted when it could have been contentious. Kevin and Phil are not alone in their media-center savvy. Others such as Paul Goydos, Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy and Geoff Ogilvy are also very good, but in general too many players miss the chance to be the authors of their stories, leaving the scribblers to fill in the blanks. Tour players have never been richer, and subsequently there's a sense that talking to the media is a burden instead of an opportunity. Perhaps professionals don't need someone to humanize them to live nicely, but Phil, among too few others, knows that the media room is where the rich get richer.
Brandel Chamblee is a 15-year Tour veteran and a Golf Channel analyst.
Photograph by FRED VUICH