SAN DIEGO – If you’re a Phil Mickelson fan and approach 2014 with anxiety, thinking the U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2 represents his best (and perhaps last) chance to secure the career Grand Slam, breathe easy. Lefty’s got you covered with an abundance of confidence.
“It may be this year at Pinehurst, it may not, but I do believe that (a U.S. Open win and thus a career Grand Slam) will come. It’s a tournament I’ve played too well in over the years not to finally win, and I actually believe I’ll win a couple.”
A couple? Now that’s confidence, but then again, he’s has a great reason to feel that way.
His record six second-place finishes in the national championship started in 1999 at Pinehurst when Mickelson was edged by Payne Stewart in an unforgettable finish. Stewart famously embraced Mickelson that damp Sunday and told the then 29-year-old left-hander that his day would come. In the other majors, it has: three times at Augusta National, once at the PGA, and even last summer in a scintillating Open Championship, the big event that it was assumed Mickelson might never win.
But it has not yet arrived in the U.S. Open, the big event he seemingly has been poised to win time and time again.
Discouraged? Mickelson at 43 shows not a trace of it. In fact, he appeared for his pre-tournament interview at the Farmers Insurance Open more buoyant than ever.
Part of that is being home – he’ll be playing in a 25th PGA Tour event at Torrey Pines.
Part of that is riding the coattails of a nice tournament last week in Abu Dhabi – he tied for second and had a great chance to win.
And part of that is due to a positive state of mind with two parts of his game – the hybrid and the driver, the two clubs he has not enjoyed the last few years “are now my two favorite clubs.”
Yes, he envisions himself as the sixth player to complete the career grand slam (Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods are the others), and going to Pinehurst in June doesn’t dampen his spirits. He has not seen the revamped efforts of Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore, but chances are, he’ll be in favor.
With their work, it’s more imperative than ever that you be a wonderful chipper of the golf ball, a Mickelson strength. He competed there in 1999 because that strength of his game was accentuated; in 2005, when he finished joint 33rd, the course was short of good grass around the greens and players had to putt rather than pitch and chip.
But the pursuit of the career grand slam isn’t the only thing Mickelson is excited about. Fact is, he had a healthy list of things that get him smiling on the eve of his first PGA Tour tournament of 2014. His renovation work at Torrey Pines’ North Course, the announcement that he had re-signed with KPMG for three years, his new Callaway driver, his putting, the way he played at Abu Dhabi, the warm and dry Southern California winter, even prospects of the San Diego Chargers’ 2014 season produced a big, wide smile.
So much to be happy about, but of course, someone had to spoil the roll and ask about the South Course. No smiles there. “I haven’t won (the Farmers) since they redesigned the course in ’01,” said Mickelson, whose much-publicized dislike for Rees Jones’ work on the South Course is no secret.