Fall down seven times, get up eight certainly seems to be Phil Mickelson‘s motto when it comes to the U.S. Open. Mickelson has won on TOUR 43 times in his career, the Masters three times, has his name on the Claret Jug and the Wanamaker, but there’s just one trophy missing from his mantle…the U.S. Open.
Lefty will be making his 24th appearance at a U.S. Open this week at Chambers Bay as he looks to complete his career grand slam, a monkey that has been on his back since his first appearance in 1990. He has been the runner-up six different times, holds ten top-10 finishes, and zero wins.
“If I never get the Open, then I’ll look back and think … I just think of heartbreak.” Mickelson said following the 2013 U.S. Open
Mickelson has seen plenty of heartbreak playing in this country’s great major. Of course there was his epic collapse at the 2006 U.S. Open. Standing on the tee box at 18 with a 1-shot lead, Phil failed to find the fairway with his drive and made a complete mess of the hole to shoot a double bogey and leave the door open for Geoff Ogilvy. Then there was his most recent runner-up in 2013, which also happened to be Father’s Day and Mickelson’s birthday. Entering the final round with a 1-stroke lead, poor putting and his inability to close would lead to Lefty’s demise for the sixth time in his career.
Mar 1, 2015; Palm Beach Gardens, FL, USA; Phil Mickelson during the final round of the Honda Classic at PGA National GC Champion Course. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports
But 2015 is a new year and it seems like the best chance in his career to get this 24-year-old monkey off his back. Mickelson struggled in the beginning of the season, but then he got to the Masters where his game started to take shape and now he is entering the second major of the year in great form. Mickelson is coming off a fantastic performance at the FedEx St. Jude Classic this past weekend, where he fired off an 8-under 65 in the final round to tie for third. 65 also happens to be his low round for the season. Lefty has not only found success playing in tournaments the week before majors, but he likes to put himself in contention. Mickelson’s strong finish will help him build confidence and momentum entering the U.S. Open.
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The week before winning the 2013 British Open, Mickelson also had a huge confidence boost with his win at the Scottish Open. Not only did his strategy work back then, but both of those tournaments were played on links style courses. Among the controversies brewing at Chambers Bay, one of them is that the course is too similar to a British Open environment, but Mickelson isn’t complaining. This year’s U.S. Open venue is right up his alley and he loves what he’s seen so far.
"“I think that it’s a special course in that there’s a lot of different ways to play shots to a lot of different pins, and if you play the highest percentage shot, it’s not a hard golf course. But if you don’t know what that shot is, you play the wrong one, there’s a lot of penalty. I feel like I’ve — my game is coming around. Hopefully these next three days I’ll be able to really fine-tune and be sharp when the tournament starts Thursday.” -Phil Mickelson"
While other golfers are busy groaning about Mike Davis and the USGA’s set up of Chambers Bay, Mickelson is busy studying it and making a game plan. He’s entering this week with a positive attitude on top peaking at the right time. Phil’s creativity and the magic he can create with a wedge will both be important factors this week. Approach shots will be critical at Chambers Bay, which is why Mickelson’s course management will help him succeed.
"“What Mike Davis said is really true. If you’re going to be ready for this tournament it takes a lot more time to learn the golf than just a couple of days. I’m pleased that I’ve developed kind of a game plan for each hole and how I’m going to get to certain pins.”"
If his experience or momentum doesn’t help at the U.S. Open, his karma over that last few days will. After the Memorial Tournament outside of Muirfield Village, Mickelson stopped by a lemonade stand to quench his thirst and ended up leaving a $100 tip for the two kids running the operation.
As if that wasn’t enough, he topped that during his final round this past weekend at the FedEx St. Jude Classic. Mickelson drained his 25-foot birdie putt on 18 and then walked over to a little girl on the side of the green who is a patient at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Lefty signed his caddies’ bib for her, as well as his glove and the ball he just used to birdie the hole. He then parted ways by saying, “We’re wishing you the best of luck, you know that? You’ve got a lot of people pulling for you.”
The clock is running out for Phil, who turns 45 on Tuesday, but if there was ever an opportunity for Mickelson to finally complete the career grand slam, it’s this weekend at Chambers Bay. He’s got plenty of experience at the U.S. Open and has felt the pains of falling just short, six different times. Coming off the best round of his season, Lefty is peaking at the right time. The golf gods are smiling down on him, now all he’s gotta do is close things out.