Billy Casper

Phil Mickelson, a man who makes even the paunchiest golfer look like an athlete, stunned everyone this week when he announced that he’s been a vegetarian for the past seven weeks.

“No, this wasn’t recommended by a doctor, I read a book and just thought maybe it will help,” the four-time major winner said with a grin. “And if it helps my situation, I’m all for it.”

Okay, so he’s on a health drive in an effort to ease his psoriatic arthritis. But he’s unlikely to help build up the “Five Guys” burgers franchise in the California area, having recently joined a group of investors that has purchased the rights to the chain in California’s Orange County.

During The Players championship at TPC Sawgrass in May, Mickelson said he couldn’t stop going to his new favourite burger restaurant.

“I grew up on In-n-Out. I thought that was the best burger until I had Five Guys,” said the left-hander, who celebrated his Masters win by taking his children to a drive-in Krispee Kreme for some doughnuts. “That is hands down the best burger I’ve ever had.”

Mickelson efforts to get into the restaurant business are not new. Last year, he and a couple of investors tried to buy 105 Waffle House restaurants in four states but their bid of $20.2 million (€15.5m) was unsuccessful.

Meat eaters
Phil Mickelson might have sworn off red-meat for now but the famous Lake Michigan “skeeters” are having a field day.

Whistling Straits is infested with mosquitoes, especially in the late afternoon, which is why cans of insect repellant have now become standard issue for the media who dare to traipse around the massive, lakefront property.

Not even an explosion in the local dragonfly population has been much help.

“Dragonflies are great for eating mosquitoes,” said Rebecca Clarke, a local naturalist. “But the mosquitoes are definitely winning.”

Billy Casper
On the face of it, Billy Casper should be one of the happiest men in golf.

He won three majors in a storied career - a Masters and two US Opens - and was second in another three. Yet he spoke of the great sadness in his life when he addressed a captivated audience at a function in Kohler this week.

Awarded this year’s Distinguished Services Award by the PGA of America, 79-year old Casper recalled the emotional distress his family has suffered since his adopted son David - one of 11 Casper children - was sentenced to 104 years and eight months back in 1999.

Fighting addiction to methamphetamine and heroin, 26-year Casper Jnr went on a 40-day crime spree that saw him commit 22 armed robberies in Southern California and Nevada over a 34-day period.

Sports Illustrated reported that he stuck up a series of businesses including “a Taco Bell, the Sands of La Jolla resort, two doughnut shops, two bagel shops, a cookie shop, a Chevron station, a Blockbuster store, a yogurt shop, a KFC, two auto-parts stores, a florist, a supermarket and a woman in a car with three children.”

“It just tears your heart,” the golfing legend said at the time. “David’s really a good kid. It’s just that he made some bad choices, and now he has to live with those choices.”

Strait shooting
This week’s golf-fest on the shores of Lake Michigan represented the second staging of the US PGA Championship on the Straits course at Whistling Straits.

But while Pete Dye’s spectacular faux-links has only been in existence for 12 years, it will soon become extremely familiar to the general public.

Not only has the PGA of America announced that it will stage the PGA Championship for a third time in 2010, it will also host the 2020 Ryder Cup.

That’s good news for Darren Clarke, who appears to have fallen in love with a course that’s a ball-strikers dream.

“I like the golf course,” said the Ulsterman, who set a course record 65 in the opening round of the 2004 US PGA. “It’s a proper test. You have got to drive the ball well. You have got to hit a lot of knock down shots and keep your ball flight under control and that’s why I like it.”

Clarke, who will be a Ryder vice-captain this year barring a late surge in the qualifying race, has made no secret of the fact that he would love to be the skipper himself some day.

He turned 42 yesterday (Saturday) and if he gets his chance in ten years’ time, he can never be accused of running down the 7,500 yard long monster.

“I think it will be a fantastic Ryder Cup venue,” he said. “If they use some different tees when they get here (in 2020), it will be brilliant.”

They come from all over to watch Glory’s Last Shot, aka the US PGA Championship. But some come looking for a way to make a fast buck.

Take “Fast Freddie” - a quick talking Floridian from St Augustine - who hawked illegal cuban cigars as he followed Padraig Harrington, Davis Love and “Wild Thing” John Daly during Thursday’s first round.

“Stogies,” he squawked out of the side of his mouth, waving a cigar box mark ‘Cohiba’ as he weaved his way through the crowds that snaked along the par-three seventh. “Anybody want stogies?”

The American midwest might not be the best venue in the world to break Uncle Sam’s ban on Cuban cigars ($20), though he also sold Dominicans for ten bucks apiece.

Most fans frowned on him but Fast Freddie shrugged, admonishing one man: “Who are you? Obama?”

A couple of guys approached him.

“You Feds? You undercover?” he asked before parting with a couple of beauties.

When I asked him how business was going, he spotted my media credentials and said: “Ireland huh. Dublin? Great place, Temple Bar. Had a blast there.”

And with that he was off again. “Stogies. Anyone want stogies?”