It’s the eleventh hour for Phil Mickelson if he intends to complete the career slam this year at Pinehurst. Without a top ten finish in the 2014 season, and not really a decent finish since his victory at Muirfield last year, the aging super-star knows if he wants to complete the slam this year, he needs to play well this week in Memphis.
The one memory that stands out from the 1999 and 2005 US Opens that were contested at Pinehurst #2 were the crowned greens. Shots into these greens with any forward trajectory simply will not stop.
This problem will be even more prevalent in 2014 since the old venue was restored to its original Donald Ross design by Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore. The added length will require 4,5, and 6 iron shots into these greens that simply will not hold.
After practice rounds at Pinehurst, Phil has called on his short-game coach, Dave Pelz, and is working on a short game that is among the best in the business, knowing he will need it next week.
“I’m trying to get my game ready to finish off that Grand Slam,” Mickelson said. He worked with short-game instructor Dave Pelz at Pinehurst on Monday and Tuesday before playing this week’s pro-am. He was surprised at the length of the restored Pinehurst No. 2, but also said that could play to his advantage.
“It’s an extremely long golf course,” he said. “Hitting 4-, 5- and 6-irons into those greens became very difficult. I had a hard time hitting it on the surface. Short game becomes a factor, which plays well for me. If we all miss every green, I feel like I have the best chance.”
No one has ever won the tournament the week before the US Open and The US Open in the same year. It had never happened at the British Open until Phil did it last year by winning the Scottish Open, and the Open Championship the next week. So if anyone can win this week in Memphis, and next week at Pinehurst, it would have to be Phil.
Phil Mickelson will tee it up on Thursday at The FedEx St. Jude Classic with the same group that he ended the 2013 tournament at TPC Southwinds, fellow runner-up, Scott Stallings, and defending champion, Harris English. Phil parlayed his second-place finish in the Memphis area into his sixth runner-up finish at a US Open, and a victory in the 2013 British Open.
“I need to get four good rounds and get some momentum for next week,” Mickelson said. “I need to finish off the rounds. I feel like I’m hitting good shots. I have to finish the rounds off and post a number. I don’t feel like the parts are off, but the score has been off.”
If you think the FBI Investigation is going to hamper Mickelson’s effort between the ropes, one only needs to remember his victory at Augusta only weeks after his wife Amy was diagnosed with breast cancer.
So if anyone can play through the off-course issues, it Phil Mickelson. He looks good in interviews, and remains optimistic that he can play well despite his personal problems.
I’m not going out on a limb and saying Phil will win at TPC Southwind, but I do know that he will give it all of his attention, and effort. He’s had moments of brilliance this year, but has been unable to carry it for four rounds. Maybe this is the week he puts the naysayers to rest and gets back into the winners circle in Memphis.
Then we will see what he has for Pinehurst and the demons of the past.