Hospitality decks aside, Mickelson inconsistent

Phil Mickelson during The Barclays, the first event in the PGA Tour's 2014 FedEx Cup playoffs.

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PARAMUS, N.J. – So, with Plan A out the window, Phil Mickelson will turn to Plan B. Or is it Plan C?

Time will tell where his FedEx Cup playoff schedule takes him, but the more immediate concern for Lefty is the bizarre inconsistency with his play. Just two weeks after making a run at the PGA Championship, Mickelson forced an early departure from The Barclays in Saturday’s third round at Ridgewood Country Club.

Though he was consistent in one aspect – for a second straight day he sprayed his tee shot left and into a corporate chalet next to the fifth green – Mickelson just never built any sort of momentum. Having made the cut on the number late Friday when he birdied his 18th hole, the par-4 No. 9 after starting on the back nine, Mickelson opened Round 3 with a birdie, but tripled the par-4 14th and then finished bogey-bogey to shoot 4-over 75.

At 5-over 218, Mickelson beat only one other player of the 79 who made the cut. But in 78th place, he did not survive the secondary cut.

First and foremost, it tosses his FedEx Cup playoff plans into turmoil, regarding how it gets Mickelson prepared for the Ryder Cup (Sept. 26-28).

Never did Mickelson envision playing in all four playoff tournaments to lead into the Ryder Cup. Five tournaments in six weeks' time was not an option. The optimum goal was to play The Barclays and be in such solid shape for a berth in the Tour Championship that he could skip one of the next two events: the Deutsche Bank Championship or the BMW Championship.

But having vaulted to 45th in the FedEx Cup standings with his terrific PGA Championship effort, Mickelson will lose ground thanks to his MDF at Ridgewood. Projected to fall to 60th, a number likely to change but not significantly, presenting Mickelson with a decision.

Teeing it up next week at the Deutsche Bank Championship is a virtual certainty and since it’s a venue, TPC Boston, where he has won before, Mickelson can legitimately consider the ultimate goal: Win, secure a spot into the Tour Championship field and have the luxury of bypassing the BMW.

Ah, but if he were to have a pedestrian DBC, therein creates a muddled picture, because what sits at the heart of things for Mickelson is this: Rich as the FedEx Cup events are, what is at the top of his list is the Ryder Cup. All his thoughts, all his plans, all his intentions revolve around being in the best possible form for Gleneagles, and that means building up to it in a way that he thinks works.

Playing four consecutive weeks going in is not something that will sit well with him. So the challenge at TPC Boston will to turn things around, more to like they were when he nearly won at Valhalla GC two weeks ago and less like they’ve been for long stretches of this curious 2013-14 season.

After all, Mickelson has now teed it up 19 times on the PGA Tour this season and failed to play 72 holes a whopping six times. Twice he withdrew after two rounds, three times he’s missed the 36-hole cut, and now this, his first MDF. You have to go back to 1995 to when Mickelson was this inconsistent. (He missed nine cuts in 24 starts.) That was a lifetime ago, of course, given the way Mickelson has settled into his Hall of Fame career and in recent years he’s been a weekend fixture; he’s missed just eight cuts the last three years.

But of late, the only consistent thing has been his inconsistency.

Unless, of course, you’re talking the fifth hole here at Ridgewood, where Mickelson employed a strange strategy. As he did Friday, Mickelson blocked his drive well left of the 289-yard hole. And as he did Friday, the left-hander got up toward the green and discovered that his golf ball had come to rest on the green carpeted floor of a corporate tent.

The angle of the shot and the part of the green to which Mickelson was playing made Saturday’s errant play an easier task, and he took advantage. Whereas Mickelson went long and into a bunker and made bogey in Round 2, Saturday’s shot was a deft wedge that Mickelson got a lot of spin on and stopped at 21 feet. He nearly made birdie, but such scoring was not in the cards at Ridgewood. Mickelson settled for par. Good theater for the fans, of course, but little help to his weekend chances at The Barclays.

As for his FedEx Cup plans? Consider them a work in progress, at the moment.

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