Considering the number of jams Phil Mickelson’s flop shot wizardry and bunker escaping derring-do have gotten him out of over the years, it says something that the five-time major winner counts parting with his Gulfstream V among his best calls to date.
“The greatest decision I made after owning a plane for twenty years was selling it and going with VistaJet because it has reduced my stress levels exponentially,” Mickelson explains.
Lefty has a partnership with the global private jet provider whose acquisitive Dubai-based parent company, Vista Global, manages a fleet of over 160 on-demand jets with further access to 2,100 alliance aircraft. The World Golf Hall of Famer has been flying with VistaJet for about a year and a half now.
The cons of owning a private jet are myriad, from handling logistical and administrative issues—staffing and making overnight arranging for pilots and crew—to everything that goes with keeping a plane maintained and airworthy.
“When Amy and I would travel to the mountains to go ski, I would need to know months in advance when I was going to go, so that I could get a hangar. Otherwise, if the plane sits outside, things freeze and there is a huge additional expense that always comes up,” Mickelson explains.
“With, VistaJet, they handle that problem. We don’t have to tell them months in advance. We can tell them hours in advance, and they drop us off wherever we want to go and they deal with all the logistics,” he adds.
Mickelson lauds their customer service and appreciates the extra personal touches such as stocking aircrafts with his and Amy’s preferred wines and meal choices. It’s also made it a lot easier for family members to join Phil on tour at their convenience.
“Rather than having our plane fly back across country to pick her up and fly all the way back out, she just hops on a VistaJet flight and we only pay for the hours that she was in the air,” Mickelson says.
While Mickelson’s towering approaches don’t quite reach a cruising altitude of 35,000 feet, the high flying golf icon has an uncanny knack for smooth landings that roll gently towards the pin.
He didn’t earn his ‘Phil the Thrill’ nickname without pulling off more than his fair share of golf course magic tricks over the years, from his brilliant spinning wedge play to his backwards circus shot that flies over his head and onto the green. So, you’d think picking the craziest shot he’s ever pulled off in competition would take a few beats. But Mickelson barely hesitates before keying in on a doozy from the 1992 Tucson Open, a tournament he won the year previous while still a junior at Arizona State.
“I’m playing the third hole at Tucson National and I’m in the left rough and I have a lake between myself and the ball,” Mickelson says.
“I skipped it across the water up the bank and onto the back edge of the green. I didn’t think it was crazy at the time because I used to practice that shot all the time. I would just go out on the lake and see if I could skip balls twice or four times across or have balls skid across the top of the water like a putt. I would enjoy doing that so it didn’t seem crazy to me but it seemed crazy to a lot of other people. Looking back on it, I was leading the tournament at the time, so that was probably one of the craziest shots that I tried.”
“The Leap,” Phil Mickelson’s spread-eagled jump after his green jacket winning birdie putt dropped, is the most indelible moment of the 2004 Masters. After taking two hacks to escape a greenside bunker, playing partner Chris DiMarco’s ball serendipitously ended up just a few inches behind Mickelson’s marker. DiMarco then blew his putt over the left edge and the perfect read was established. Now it was time for Phil to knock it in and shed the “Best Player To Never Win a Major” monkey that had clung to his back for so many years. There was a nanosecond of fear on Phil’s face when it appeared that his putt could lip-out but it didn’t, instead plunging into the depths of the 4.25-inch cup. Then Phil took off, seemingly floating above the gallery with his putter extended triumphantly toward the sky. The silhouette of flying Phil would go on to become the logo of his golf-course design business and his Coffee for Wellness company.
“I had no idea what I was doing or why. It was just my natural reaction to the moment and all of that pressure and expectation finally coming out of me in winning my first major,” Mickelson says.
“The reason why there was that little moment where I kind of dropped down was that I thought I had missed it. If you watch that putt, it twirls around the cup entirely and as it was twirling around, I thought I had missed on the low side. When it dropped in, that’s when I exploded up in the air.”
Lefty, a 44-time PGA Tour winner, spent 1,425 consecutive weeks in the top 100 of the Official World Golf Rankings, an all-time record on par with the greatest longevity streaks in sports history. While that incredible run ended earlier this month, Phil is fired up and motivated to play his way back in.
“My goal is to try to play against the best players in the world and compete against them at the highest level at an age where it has not really ever been done,” Mickelson says.
And while he already has picked up a pair of Champions Tour wins in just three starts, he says Bernhard Langer’s records on the elder circuit are safe for now. Mickelson’s steadfast focus remains on the PGA Tour where he intends to continue to compete for the next four to five years.