Phil Mickelson : China's Awesome New Boyfriend

"He's been like the new boyfriend meeting the potential in-laws for the first time all week long."

That's how BBC Sports Iain Carter described the demeanor of Phil Mickelson,
- the 2009 HSBC Champions
winner - during a week that culminated in his victory yesterday at Shanghai's Sheshan International Golf Club.

Not only did he perform brilliantly on the golf course... fending off numerous challenges right up to the end... he also made a concerted and continual effort to engage the massive local population... an audience that few argue will be crucial to the growth of golf going forward.

With his famous smile and relaxed-but-respectful banter, Mr. Mickelson did at times seem like a smitten admirer intent on making a positive impression... and his efforts clearly paid off, allowing the Chinese press to create a dramatic storyline based on the classic affable-challenger-defeats-aloof-champion theme. Lefty was cast as the affable one and given the endearing Chinese nickname, "Lao Mi".

Yesterday, everything fell into place to bring that theme to life... and lead to the desired conclusion. World Number One Tiger Woods, in the "aloof champion" role, got off to a dubious start and became taciturn, introspective and dour... which is totally normal, BTW. It's what many of us US fans call "Tiger getting into the zone".

We admire this steely show of determination along with the recovery and eventual victory that almost inevitably follows.

It was a far different story in Shanghai however. Unlike many Western golf fans, the Chinese fans didn't appreciate "the zone"... and though there were glimmers of hope, the full recovery and victory never came. Meanwhile Lao Mi valiantly fought off challenges by the likes of Ernie Els, Ryan Moore and Rory McIlroy and emerged the winner, thus delighting China's nascent golf fan base and setting the stage for dramatic and popular golf events in China's future. The outcome, despite what one may think of the protagonist, was certainly ultra-good for the game.

I know some find Phil Mickelson phony, plastic and FIGJAMish. In fact, I have my own admitedly lame personal reasons for not being a Phil fan, but, to continue with Mr. Carter's Meet the Parents analogy, it looks like Mom and Dad approve.

Photographs : Getty Images