AUGUSTA, Ga. – A swing and a miss.
Those five words best describe Phil Mickelson’s effort at the 82nd Masters.
A major that began with so much promise and a practice round with long-time rival Tiger Woods ended in disappointment, a shortcoming personified with a whiff in Saturday’s third round and an ensuing triple bogey that stung like a Georgia yellowjacket.
Mickelson, who turns 48 in June, yanked his drive right, into the trees on the first hole and wound up in the pinestraw. Trying to elude some branches on his second shot, Lefty lunged, hit the trunk and fanned as if facing an Aroldis Chapman fastball.
The shaky swing, worthy of a high-handicapper, was humbling and played a part in his 74, a day after shooting 79 with another triple and nearly missing the weekend. He entered Saturday tied for last place. Still Phil trudged on and tried to right things in Sunday’s final round.
He did, his resilience rewarded with a closing 5-under 67 for a 290 total, T-36. A nice bounceback but thoroughly unsatisfying.
“It was better but it’s never easy to be out here knowing what you’re missing out on with that back nine here Sunday at the Masters and not having a chance,” Mickelson said. “It’s difficult because you know what you’re missing out on and you know what special things happen on that back nine, how fun it is to be a part of it, be in the mix.”
Few know the feeling better.
The man who was captured five majors, including three Masters championships, seemed to be on form heading to Augusta National, ranked 18th in the world, winning the WGC-Mexico Championship in a playoff and collecting five top-10 finishes.
This week’s deflating result brought no green jacket and no visit to Butler Cabin. Just regret over an opportunity lost for the wizened veteran seeking one more day in the sun at the tournament Bobby Jones built.
Where does Mickelson go from here? His major biological clock is ticking. Jack Nicklaus is the oldest to win here at 46. Julius Boros is the oldest to win any major at 48 (1968 PGA Championship).
Logic tell us major championship time for Mickelson just might be over. So too his chance for the career Grand Slam. Only the U.S. Open has eluded him over his decorated career. His next Open go comes in two months at Shinnecock.
“The difficult thing for me is I continue to put, I put a little bit too much pressure on myself in the majors now because I know that I don’t have a ton of time to win them, especially U.S. Opens,” Mickelson said. “But these next two U.S. Opens, Shinnecock and Pebble Beach, give me two really good opportunities.
“So I need to keep my game, get my game sharp, but I really need to be on those weeks and in the past I’ve been on at Shinnecock and I’m hopeful to do it again.”
Striking out on Magnolia Lane won’t snuff that Grand Slam dream. Not for perpetually positive Phil. Gwk