Mickelson works on short game ahead of U.S. Open
It’s almost 15 years ago, June 20th, when Phil Mickelson came so very close to winning his first U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2.
With his wife, Amy, back home expecting their first child, Mickelson went toe to toe with the Plus Four-clad Payne Stewart.
In the end, Stewart made a crucial 18-foot putt on the 72nd hole and won his second national championship.
“You’ll win yours, you’ll win yours,” Stewart said in the trophy presentation to Mickelson. “Phil’s going to have his opportunity again.”
Stewart was right, Mickelson has had many opportunities – finishing second six times in 2002, 2004, 2006, 2009, 2013 and of course 1999. But each opportunity had its own story with Tiger Woods, Retief Goosen, Geoff Ogilvy, Lucas Glover and last year Justin Rose doing the right things as Mickelson would leave with the runner up medal.
In Mickelson’s six final rounds when he finished second, his scoring average is 71.5, never breaking par.
Now Mickelson is at the proverbial crossroads with the U.S. Open back at Pinehurst.
“I'm excited about these next three weeks,” Mickelson said Wednesday after getting fitted for his Ryder Cup apparel. “We'll see how it goes. My short game right now, which has not been great this year, is – after spending a few days, it feels good. So I'm curious to see how it goes this week.”
Mickelson left his last event, the Players Championship, saying his issue was more mental than his swing or short game.
But Mickelson spent the last 10 days working with Butch Harmon on his swing and Dave Pelz on his short game.
Which makes sense because statistically, Mickelson’s numbers are all over the map in 2014.
His greens in regulation stat is ranked 35th at 67.98 percent, better than 2013, but the strokes gained putting ranking is 109th versus sixth in 2013.
Generally, Mickelson is a birdie machine – ranked No. 1 last year at 4.22 – but is 40th this year at 3.79, that difference of 0.43 birdies is nearly two strokes a tournament.
“I'm not worried about results as much as I am getting the game sharp,” Mickelson said of his goal this week at Memorial and next week in Memphis. “But I do think the results are going to come if I just play well. I'm not worried about finishing first or second or top ten or what have you, but building momentum, building confidence in my game over the next couple of weeks.”
Mickelson went on to say that if he doesn’t see some positive results, he might have to go back to the drawing board.
“I need to have some results to give me some confidence,” Is what Mickelson said of the bottom line. “Even though that's not where I want to focus.”
Mickelson will make the trip to Pinehurst on Monday and Tuesday to prepare for his 24th National Championship – and more importantly his chance to be one of the best golfers in history, winning the career Grand Slam.
“I'm fortunate and I'm honored to be part of that long list of great players that have won three of the four,” Mickelson said. “That's great. But it would mean a lot to me – I would look at myself, I would look at my career, which is all I care about, in a whole different light if I were able to get that fourth one."