Mickelson hopes to carry spark to PGA

Phil Mickelson during Tuesday practice for the 2014 PGA Championship at Valhalla.
Phil Mickelson during Tuesday practice for the 2014 PGA Championship at Valhalla. ( Associated Press )

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Which Phil Mickelson will show up this week at Valhalla?

It’s an odd question to ask, but by his own admission, the five-time major winner has been basically MIA this year on the PGA Tour.

In his 22 previous seasons on Tour, Mickelson, 44, had averaged nearly eight top-10s a year. In 17 events this season, Mickelson hasn’t recorded one top-10.

His last victory came in last year's Open Championship at Muirfield, sparked by a final-round 66. It has been slim pickings since then, with a second in Abu Dhabi but nothing of note in North America.

After a third-round 1-under 69 in the WBC-Bridgestone Invitational last weekend, even Mickelson sounded resolved to the fact that 2014 might be shaping up as a bust. He sounded less than encouraged with the state of his game. However, a final-round 62, which elevated him into a tie for 15th, put the left-hander's psyche in a different place entering the final major championship of the year.

"It's a really good thing for me to get that kind of momentum from one round,” Mickelson said Tuesday after a practice round at Valhalla Golf Club, site of the 96th PGA. “You don't want to put too much emphasis on just one round. But the way the pieces fell together, I started to roll the ball well and wedge play started to get good, short irons got better. Really, two days prior, it was just horrific. So it was an important day for me to get some momentum.”

The last time Mickelson shot 62 or lower was in February 2013, when he opened with a 60 at the Waste Management Phoenix Open and went on to a four-shot victory over Brandt Snedeker.

That Thursday in the desert, Mickelson was on a "59 watch" almost immediately. Starting on the back nine at TPC Scottsdale, he opened with four consecutive birdies and turned at 29. Only a lipout on the final hole stopped Mickelson from joining the exclusive club.

Mickelson hit 16 of 18 greens that day and needed only 24 putts in shooting his lowest career round on Tour.

Sunday in Akron, Mickelson wasn’t as sharp, hitting 11 of 18 greens. However, his vaunted short game was on display, with just 21 putts needed to record 10 birdies.

“I'm streaky, and I'll get on rolls and get some good momentum, and all of a sudden the hole looks like it's huge," he said. "Then there are days where it's just the opposite. It's just the way it's always been for me. I don't have a great answer.”

So will it be feast or famine this week at Valhalla?

For 23 years, Mickelson has walked that fine line of playing great golf or, as with so much of this season, not making much happen.

But if you believe what he is saying and what his facial expressions are indicating, Mickelson is ready to give it a solid effort this week and may actually have to tools to get it done.

“It's been a while since I felt confident heading in, and I didn't know I was going to feel this way after the first two rounds last week,” Mickelson said. “It's a nice turn of events.”

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