With his energy back, Phil Mickelson surges into contention at TPC Boston

Andrew Redington/Getty Images

With his energy back, Phil Mickelson surges into contention at TPC Boston

PGA Tour

With his energy back, Phil Mickelson surges into contention at TPC Boston

NORTON, MASS. – Everyone has days when they don’t want to get out of bed, when they wished the kitchen coffee maker delivered a cup of joe right to the bed. You can excuse Phil Mickelson, 47, if he feels like that from time to time because the man has been battling on the PGA Tour since 1992, and that was after he won Northern Telecom Open in 1991 as an amateur.

But the guys who Lefty competes against, who are full of talent and about half his age, like Jon Rahm (22) and Jordan Spieth (24), are not going to let him hit the snooze button if he wants to contend.

After an opening-round 69 at the Dell Technologies Championship, Mickelson said that he visited his doctor in August because while his game felt fine physically, he was having a hard time focusing and keeping his energy levels up. It showed in his results; Mickelson missed the cut at both the British Open at PGA Championship and was a distant T-39 at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. But Saturday, with the winds down and scoring conditions improved, Mickelson backed-up his 2-under performance in the first round with a 67 that included five birdies and just a single bogey. Midway through the afternoon, he was tied for fourth and three shots behind Rahm, the leader.

“It’s encouraging. It’s been so frustrating to know that I’ve been striking it, or playing at a certain level, and the scores haven’t reflected it,” Mickelson said. “It’s been frustrating being on the course and not being able to visualize or see the shot I’m trying to hit and make a swing without much purpose or direction.”

For a player with Mickelson’s incredible skills and sense of touch, visualization is critical. He wants to analyze the situation, see a shot in his mind and then execute it. While most pros can paint a picture of the shot they want to hit in their minds, throughout this career Mickelson has been the Michelangelo of mental imagery, but recently it wasn’t happening.

“These first two days, my visualization, my mental clarity and focus have been much better (and) my energy level has been up,” Mickelson said. “I’m going to go practice when we’re done. I haven’t done that in a while because I’ve been so tired after the round, and I just feel a lot better.”

The biggest differences are apparent around the green. He’s hit 19 of 28 fairways off the tee through two rounds, and 21 of 36 greens in regulation, but the 42-time PGA Tour winner is second in the field in strokes gained: around the green, a statistic that measures the effectiveness of a player on shots hit from within 30 yards of the putting surface.

On Saturday, Mickelson made a solid up-and-down from the rough on the par-3 eighth hole, hit a delicate downhill chip on the 15th to set up a par-saving 7-foot putt and hit a masterful chip from the rough to the left of the 17th green to set up another par save.

In classic Phil style, he saved the best for last and hit a flop shot from a tight lie left of the hole on the par-5 18th to set up a birdie that took him to 6 under for the tournament.

“That was a good one on 18, but again, I’ve got a 64-degree wedge for a purpose like that where I can get underneath the ball and stop it a lot easier than a lot of guys who don’t have that club,” Mickelson said. “That’s where I save shots. I ended up getting that up-and-down fairly easily, where guys are going to struggle there on that shot. That’s I didn’t have that club.”

The Hall of Famer has won five major championships, played on 10 U.S. Ryder Cup teams (every one since 1995) and he’s been on every Presidents Cup team since 1994 (11). Coming into the Dell Technologies Championship, Steve Stricker, captain of this year’s U.S. Presidents Cup team, was faced with a tough decision when it came to Mickelson. Was he going to be the guy who says no and gives a captain’s pick to someone else or would he offer Mickelson the pick over Kevin Chappell, Brian Harmon and Jason Dufner? Each of those golfers entered this week ranked higher than Mickelson on the Presidents Cup point list.

“He needs to do what’s best for the team. He needs to get the best guys on the team,” Mickelson said. “These are fun events but they are also important and we want to win, and as a captain, it’s his job, responsibility, to make the tough decisions and do what’s in the best interests of the team and I support that either way. I would love to be the one he felt added to the team but if I’m not, he’s got to make that tough call. I totally understand it. I’ve had a tough time for awhile. But these two rounds, although they have been great, I don’t know if that’s enough or not. Let’s see how the weekend goes and we’ll go from there.”

A rejuvenated Mickelson, who continues to play golf like he did Saturday at TPC Boston, could make Stricker’s tough decision a lot easier.

Latest

More Golfweek
Home