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Rocket Mortgage Classic, a wonderful tournament not even Mickelson wants to miss
A man named Chuck gave me a tap on the shoulder, pointed to a television screen showing golf highlights, and beamed.
“Watch this,” he said. “Isn’t it wonderful?”
A trio of golfers was on a putting green. One of them was Bryson DeChambeau, who stood over a 15-foot putt and missed.
I said to Chuck, “What was so great about that?”
“It’s just the fact that they are all here, and they are saying nice things about our city,” he said.
The Rocket Mortgage Classic concludes today at the Detroit Golf Club, bringing in money, publicity, and smiles to the city. Someone compared the PGA Tour event to the Detroit Grand Prix that motored through downtown Detroit and Belle Isle.
There is a difference. The golfers act like they want to be here.
Along with that, it’s been a perfect weekend outside of the Detroit News – Phil Mickelson drama, where the veteran golfer threatened to boycott future tournaments because he did not like a particular story that detailed Mickelson being taken advantage of by local gamblers.
“This tournament has sponsors from Rocket Mortgage, to a lot of the local sponsors, to a lot of the people in the community that is trying to come together and do something good for the community,” said Mickelson. “What I won’t tolerate is that kind of divisive attitude from that particular reporter.”
“It’s just not helpful to anybody in any way.”
Was the story unnecessary? Yes.
Did Mickelson overreact? Of course, he did.
If athletes were worried about the stories written about them, no one would play in New York or Philadelphia.
But even this gloomy story could have a silver lining. My old producer Mike Sullivan, who is now in the golfing world, wants to collect 50,000 signatures urging Mickelson to return. Phil even mentioned the gesture in a press conference and seemed to be softening his stance. He said he would return and even donated $100,000 to the Detroit-based Children’s Foundation through his foundation.
My guess is we have not seen the last of Mickelson. Although he is upset with the News story, the warmth of the people in metro Detroit and the quality of the event trumps a little bad press.
“Come back, Phil,” fans shouted throughout the tournament. “We love you, Phil.”
Detroit is a small town, a big city. It means a lot to be accepted and to be loved by visitors. That’s why we don’t want Phil to return. It is why we embrace local Willie Mack of Flint, who made the cut on “his hometown course.”
It’s why this community has embraced this tournament. It is why I am proud to see this tournament played inside the city at the Detroit Golf Club. I’ve witnessed PGA Tour events at Oakland Hills in Bloomfield Hills, Warwick Hills Country Club in Grand Blanc, and many courses by Grand Rapids.
They billed those as Detroit golf tournaments. They were not.
This one is.
Nevertheless, I can’t wait until the Rocket Mortgage Classic next year with Phil Mickelson leading the charge.