There's still time for Phil Mickelson to flip the script after another missed cut

Bill Streicher, USA TODAY Sports

There's still time for Phil Mickelson to flip the script after another missed cut

PGA Tour

There's still time for Phil Mickelson to flip the script after another missed cut

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The script, unfortunately, did not change for Phil Mickelson.

In his latest stop on the PGA Tour, the debut event on the best circuit in the world playing out in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, Mickelson floundered once again. At the 3M Open north of Minneapolis, the headliner for nearly 30 years, the man who has entertained millions the world over and racked up five majors and 44 Tour titles in all, turned in a performance not worthy of a callback.

After saying he felt ready to play well and he was swinging the club well, Mickelson turned TPC Twin Cities into his personal pinball machine and lost track of the number of penalty strokes he ignited on the Fourth of July. He needed just one hand to count the birdies he made over two disappointing days but needed both hands to count the bogeys or worse.

Mickelson headed home after 36 holes, the sixth time he has missed the cut in his 12 starts since winning his fifth AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in February. It was his fourth trunk slammer in his last six starts. His best finish the half dozen times he did see Saturday and Sunday was a tie for 18th at the Masters.

Since his latest victory, he also startled the golf world by conceding his window to win the U.S. Open, where he’s racked up a record six runner-up finishes, could be closing after he finished in a tie for 52nd at Pebble Beach. It was a surprising surrender from the man whose cup is always half full, but one that signals the same man knows the clock is ticking.

Oh, yes, the clock. On Sunday of the U.S. Open, he turned 49, the number of candles mindful that Father Time is an onward march that remains undefeated.

“I don’t know what to say. I’m just struggling a little bit at the moment, so I’ll try to work it out,” Mickelson said after missing the 3M Open cut by seven shots.

A few moments later, he delivered another telling line.

“Probably a lot,” he said when asked what he needs to work on. “I mean, there’s a lot of little … all the little things, all the little nuances. Not hitting my short irons close enough, not putting very well, driving it a little bit erratic.

“So, there’s a lot of areas I can improve on.”

But while his current act is getting old, hold off on drawing the curtain to a close, for we have seen this show play out before. He has battled droughts many times, and while his advancing age allows one to question whether or not Mickelson can come of his latest malaise, his track record suggests otherwise.

He didn’t win in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017, then won the 2018 WGC-Mexico Championship. This year, he shot 60 in the opening round of the Desert Classic before tying for second. Three weeks later he won at Pebble.

Yes, his best days are behind him. But don’t pencil him in for the PGA Tour Champions next year, for good days remain on the PGA Tour.

Physically, he can still move the ball with the longest of the long, can still pitch and chip with the best around the greens. His competitive fire is not flickering. He knows how to score, he knows how to win, he’s ranked in the top 30 in the world.

Mentally, however, as he has admitted on many an occasion, he lacks focus and loses interest rather quickly. Oftentimes, he turns 70s into 75s. Thus, he has reached a point where he needs something to motivate him, a carrot at the end of the flagstick, if you will.

Well, motivation, meet Presidents Cup.

Mickelson loves wearing the red, white and blue as much as he loves wearing the green jacket. He has played in every Ryder Cup since making his debut in 1995 and played in all 12 editions of the Presidents Cup. He is the all-time points leader for the Stars & Stripes – with 32.5 – in the biennial competition against the Internationals. And no one outplays him in the team room.

The future Presidents Cup captain and Ryder Cup captain desperately wants to play in his 13th consecutive Presidents Cup, which will be in December at Royal Melbourne in the Land of Oz. He was 14th in the standings heading into the 3M Open. The top eight after the BMW Championship in August – the second event of the FedExCup Playoffs – automatically make the team.

That’s six weeks of play, with Mickelson likely to play four of those weeks – the British Open, WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational and the first two playoff events.

If he doesn’t make the top 8 – he’d likely need to win one of those weeks – he’ll need to rely on a captain’s pick. He was a pick in 1994 by captain Hale Irwin, in 2015 by Jay Haas and in 2017 by Steve Stricker.

This year, Tiger Woods will be making the four discretionary picks in early November. At the U.S. Open, Woods said he’s certainly been thinking about the Presidents Cup and Mickelson is on his radar, emphasizing his longevity, excellence and leadership.

Mickelson will play in the fall when the 2019-2020 season begins. Maybe a lot. He’d have eight weeks to showcase his form for Woods to see.

That’s plenty of time for Lefty to get right. To paraphrase from the ancient wonders that are the Rolling Stones, time is still on Mickelson’s side, yes it is.

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