NAPA, Calif. – Ready or not, here comes Phil in search of the elusive U.S. Open title that would complete his career Grand Slam.
Mickelson shot a final-round 2-under-70 to finish 10-under 278 at the Safeway Open. He lipped out for birdie at the last, otherwise he would’ve finished with four straight birdies.
“I played better on the back and hit some better shots,” he said. “I’ll head over to Winged Foot and see if I can put it together.”
Mickelson’s week at Silverado Resort’s North Course – an uninspiring T-44 finish – could be summed up as the good, the bad and the ugly.
The good? Mickelson had a streak of 42 consecutive holes without a bogey until he ran into trouble on the front nine Sunday, finishing bogey, double bogey, bogey. Mickelson also was pleased with his short game, especially his bunker play (7 of 7 in sand saves) and short putting.
SAFEWAY OPEN: Scores
“Short game, chipping, bunker play was good. That was probably the highlight was my bunker play was good,” he said. “I actually putted OK. I putted OK from short distance.”
But Mickelson also conceded there was work to be done.
“It’s not a complete mess,” he said, “but I’m not striking it the way I’ve been striking it the last few months. It’s not far off, but it’s got to click in the next few days.”
In particular, his tee game. Mickelson hit just 12 of 56 fairways, which ranked dead last of all the players who made the cut. He lost more than three strokes to the field off the tee (72nd of 73), and Winged Foot’s narrow fairways and punitive rough won’t be as forgiving. That’s why “the ugly” may have been ranking last in the field in proximity on approach shots at nearly 38 feet from the hole. Mickelson was most concerned with his crooked driving, especially missing to the left.
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“The last couple of months I’ve been missing it more to the right and not worried about the left and the left crept in again,” he said. “For years I missed it left. I haven’t been fearing that at all lately, but this week I missed it left, which is not – that’s not good. I can deal with missing it right now, but not left.”
Mickelson always has enjoyed playing his way into a major, and he reminded a small gathering of writers that his performance before a major hasn’t always been an indicator of future success, or lack thereof.
“I’ve won a major winning the week before, I’ve won a major missing the cut the week before. You just don’t know how it’s going to be,” he said. “Right now I’m right in between. I feel like I’m on the precipice of playing really well, but I’ve got to let it click here.”
Mickelson fielded one final question and it left reporters in laughter. When asked what he thought about having odds of 75-to-1 to win the U.S. Open, Mickelson flashed a grin and said, “I’m not a gambling man, so I wouldn’t know.”