Phil Mickelson clings to dwindling Presidents Cup hopes after missing PGA cut

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Phil Mickelson clings to dwindling Presidents Cup hopes after missing PGA cut

PGA Tour

Phil Mickelson clings to dwindling Presidents Cup hopes after missing PGA cut

CHARLOTTE – U.S. Presidents Cup captain Steve Stricker made the trip to Akron, Ohio, last week for the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and during his time at Firestone sat down with Phil Mickelson.

“He told me he wants to be on this team more than anything,” Stricker said, “and I would love to see him on the team.”

The problem is Stricker is looking for players who are playing well when he makes his two captain’s selections on Sept. 6, and Mickelson doesn’t fit that bill at the moment.

Mickelson, 47, started the season well, not missing a cut and notching four top 10s among six other top 25s. But since taking four weeks off, a break that included skipping the U.S. Open to attend his daughter’s high-school graduation, Mickelson hasn’t been the same. He did tie for 20th at the Greenbrier, but then missed the cut by four shots at the British Open, tied for 39th at Firestone and on Friday made an early exit at the PGA Championship with rounds of 79-74.

“I would love to be on (the team),” Mickelson said, “but the way I’m playing I’ve got to play better these last couple tournaments because the British and here have been atrocious.”

Mickelson was 17th in the U.S. Presidents Cup standings entering the week, and he will have the first two FedEx Cup playoff events to get into that top 10, which automatically qualifies a player for the team.

“If I can play well in those, I have a chance to get on the team on my own,” Mickelson said. “If I play well in them and don’t make it, I have a chance to be a pick.”

But there’s a common denominator there: Mickelson needs to play well. The  11-time Presidents Cupper said he doesn’t feel like he’s “searching” or “hitting the ball crooked” like he was two years ago. He’s having great range sessions. He just isn’t scoring well.

“I’m just hitting it in the wrong spots,” said Mickelson, who missed 19 of his 36 greens at Quail Hollow and uncharacteristically lost more than four strokes around the greens in 36 holes.

“Not really controlling my thought process, where I want the ball to go. I’m not real focused out there. I’m having a tough time visualizing the shot. I’m having a tough time controlling my thoughts and not letting it wonder to what I don’t want to have happen. … I have a short putt, it’s not a technical issue, I’ll just not see the ball go in and stay committed. I’m just losing focus on every shot. I have a week to work on it and see if I can get it dialed in.”

Stricker will be paying attention. He knows Mickelson was 30th in the U.S. Presidents Cup standings two years ago before being selected as a captain’s pick and going 3-0-1 in South Korea, tying Zach Johnson as the team’s leading point-winner. Mickelson, who has a 20-16-11 career record in the biennial matches, also has been on just one losing Presidents Cup team in 11 appearances.

He also knows that while Mickelson brings a lot to the table other than golf, there are guys outside the top 10 like Patrick Reed, Brian Harman, Gary Woodland and Johnson who want to be on the team, too.

“I’d love to have him on the team because I know how important he is on the team and how good he is with these young guys and how good he is in the locker room and all that kind of stuff,” Stricker said.

But as Stricker told Mickelson in Akron: “Show me something.”

“I know he’s struggling a bit right now, and I told him I’d like to see him play well from here on out, you know, to show me something basically,” Stricker said. “And that just doesn’t sound right. Coming from a guy like me, talking to Phil, ‘Hey, show me something.’ That just doesn’t sound right. But that’s basically what I said; show me that you’re playing good at the end of the year.

“… Hopefully he can get hot.”

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