The U.S. Open hunt has ended for Phil Mickelson. That or he’s just trying to reverse jinx his way into the career grand slam. With a guy who posts videos of himself telling poop stories while squatting in his World Golf Hall of Fame blazer, it’s always difficult to tell.
Following a T52 finish at Pebble Beach at last week’s 119th U.S. Open, an event that concluded on his 49th birthday, Lefty called the dogs off and said his chase for that elusive final major is now off. This a month after he noted that he only had two years of hunting left at Pebble Beach this year and next season at Winged Foot.
“It’s a great week for me because I have such emotions and family history there at Pebble Beach,” said Mickelson on Wednesday. “So many great experiences throughout my career. It was just a wonderful setup, tournament, competition. I’m appreciative of the opportunity, even though I didn’t play my best or didn’t win.
“I really don’t have many more chances. Probably have to come to the realization I’m not going to win the U.S. Open, but I’m not going to stop trying. I’ll keep trying. You never know. I feel like, again, if I can play at that high level. … Just haven’t been doing that week in and week out like the way I used to.”
This makes sense. Mickelson doesn’t have a top 10 at a U.S. Open since Merion in 2013. He doesn’t have a top 10 at a major anywhere since The Open in 2016. If he were to win Winged Foot in 2020, he would be five years older than any U.S. Open winner in history. The setup and the field are just too strong for him at this point, mentally and physically. His soft early contention at Pebble faded into a 75-72 close on the weekend.
He doesn’t drive it straight enough to win at Trinity Forest right now, much less with the USGA involved. And so a victory at a U.S. Open would have to be built on the back of an all-time short game week. It might be in there, but when you finish 61st in driving accuracy and 77th in strokes gained off the tee, it’s going to have to literally be the greatest scrambling week in the history of golf.
So who knows. Maybe Mickelson catches lightning in a bottle next year at Winged Foot, site of one of his six runner-up finishes back in 2006 to Geoff Ogilvy. Maybe he improves his driver between now and then (probably not, but maybe!).
But for now, Mickelson is simply stating out loud what many of us have been whispering behind closed doors for several years. The career slam is dead, long live the career slam.