Why Phil Mickelson Was Sometimes Called 'Figjam'

Phil Mickelson thumb's up sign
Phil Mickelson flashes that grin and his thumbs-up sign. Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Golf superstar Phil Mickelson usually goes by the nickname "Lefty" because he plays golf left-handed, although he is otherwise right-handed. TV commentators also sometimes call him "Phil the Thrill" because of his go-for-broke style of playing. The fans love the three-time Masters winner and the way he plays.

But not everyone is a Mickelson fan. Earlier in his career, he acquired the unflattering nickname "Figjam," which is an acronym that begins with a profanity: "F---, I'm good, just ask me." The nickname is rarely heard these days. In fact, Golfweek listed Mickelson as one of the most approachable players on tour in a 2016 article.

The Origins of 'Figjam'

Mickelson was once a much more polarizing figure in golf. While he was, from almost the time he arrived on the scene in the early 1990s, one of the sport's most popular golfers, over the first half of his career he also seemed to irk quite a few golf fans—and some of his fellow PGA Tour professionals.

When a young hotshot arrives on the golf scene—especially one with swagger, a goofy grin, and earnestness that could be mistaken for insincerity—some of the older golfers are not going to react well. Mickelson simply rubbed some of his fellow pros the wrong way. It was those PGA Tour pros—the ones who found the young Mickelson too cocky and arrogant—who coined the nickname "Figjam."

From Locker Room Talk to Magazine

The insulting moniker was known among the tour players, but outside of the locker room, the fans were mostly unaware of it—until early 2006 when GQ magazine went public with the story. The article was entitled "The Ten Most Hated Athletes." His loyal fans were shocked to see Mickelson on the list.

According to the article, during the 2005 PGA Championship, a reporter remarked to a tour player how popular Mickelson was with the fans at Baltusrol in New Jersey, The player was reported as saying, "They don't know him the way we do. ... He annoys everybody."

That Was Then, Phil Is Now

Even if the GQ article was accurate at the time it was written about Mickelson's reputation among his peers, it's now been a long time since Mickelson was anything other than largely popular with other players.

Mickelson has grown into a senior statesman on the PGA Tour. And over time, what some earlier viewed as insincerity or arrogance on Mickelson's part came to be recognized as simply a goofy playfulness. He's almost as popular today with his fellow golfers as he is with golf fans, and he's a five-time major championship winner.

At the beginning of the 2018, Mickelson's goofy playfulness was front and center in a commercial for one of his sponsors in which he danced—sort of—while avoiding golf balls hit at him. The TV ad was the talk of clubhouses all over the US. Sponsors love Mickelson, even as his career winds down. In 2018, he was listed among the 100 top-earning celebrities, despite winning just one event that season, tying for second once, and missing three cuts.