BETHESDA, Md. – Phil Mickelson, five times a U.S. Open runner-up, was asked whether, at 41, he worries about his window for winning closing in the near future.
Mickelson said, no, not yet. He said he feels more flexible and stronger than he has in a long time. He said his arthritis is under control. He said he feels no time pressure. He said he thinks he has a few years left.
And then he said this, perhaps the most interesting thing from his Tuesday news conference at Congressional:
“I feel like my golf swing, which is longer and a little bit more flowing, it’s not quite as violent, has led to me not having any injuries now at 41.”
Hmmm. He did not mention – by name, anyway – Tiger Woods, a violent swinger who is injured at 35.
It’s not a stretch to frame that as support of Butch Harmon. Harmon has coached Mickelson for the past several years and mentored Woods in 1993-2003. It has been said that some in the Woods camp believe Woods’ left-knee problems can be traced to violent leg-snapping while working with Harmon.
A very loyal man, Mickelson is not afraid to speak up if he senses one of his teammates is being perceived unfairly.
Mickelson did, however, mention Woods when asked whether it’s more difficult to win majors now, when opportunity seems wide open, or during the dominant years of 14-major winner Woods.
His answer also qualifies as interesting.
“You could go both ways on that,” Mickelson said. “But I’ve always felt as though Tiger has helped bring out some of my best golf over the years. And even though my record against him may not be the best, it’s helped me achieve a higher level that I may not have ever achieved had he not been pushing me.
“So the challenge now is without him playing his best or even competing like he’s not this week, is pushing myself to achieve a level of play that is in there without him forcing me to do so. So in that sense it might be a little bit more difficult.”
Might not be.