by Fatiha Betscher, Valderrama
Six-time major winning Phil Mickelson has returned to Spain for this week’s LIV Valderrama, a golf course Mickelson visited in 1997 as a member of the USA Ryder Cup side.
Seve was the rival European team captain at that time and, in highly emotional scenes, led Europe to a one-point victory two years after Europe won back the Ryder Cup with a similar 14 1/2 to 13 1/2 in the US.
Sadly, little was the golf world aware, nor Seve, that a few short years following those amazing scenes here at Valderrama the champion Spaniard would no longer be with us.
Mickelson first recalled meeting Seve in a PGA Tour event at Torrey Pines in the early ’90s.
“I played here (Valderrama) a long time ago, but I have really fond memories here with Seve,” said Mickelson.
“I had a really special relationship with Seve. I looked up to him as a kid and I had a chance to play a PGA Tour event with him in San Diego and he was so kind so me, and I really appreciated the time I spent with him. There were a lot of great memories from his captaincy in ’97. Even though we lost by a point, made a good Sunday rally.
“The memories I had were of Seve leading his team and driving around the course and getting involved in what his players should do and try this shot and how creative he was. I had a lot of great memories but a lot of them are from Valderrama, and I can’t come here without thinking about him.”
Irish Golfer Magazine asked Phil if there was something special he remembers from that first meeting with Seve and what words of encouragement, if any, Seve offered to him.
“It was little things like come over here, hit this shot, and he would hit a little flop shot out of the rough,” said Mickelson. “It would be playing a practice round and have him hitting a shot to a back right pin when the pin on the practice day is front centre, and he’s talking about getting ready to play, compete and work on the shots he’s had to play in the competition. That was for a 17 year-old a little eye opening because I’m out there trying to shoot a number and score on a Tuesday practice round, which made no sense.
“But it was when he would drag me over and we would have little competitions. Then we both were with Hugo Boss and did photo shoots together and in between breaks we would have little bunker competitions, chipping competitions, and the time that I spent with him really meant a lot to me.
“When you look up to somebody the way I looked up at Seve as a kid, watching him win the Masters and then you meet him, and he is everything you hoped he would be, it’s not a letdown, it really meant a lot, and I cherish that time that I had with him”.
Well said, Phil and all golf fans missing Seve so much.