Sadly, it’s an annual ritual — the golf media opening up the wounds of Phil Mickelson and dumping salt into them with endless questions about whether or not this is the year he ends his streak of U.S. Open futility and captures the one tournament that means the most to him.
This difference is that this year might be the last time the conversation is had with a positive cadence.
That’s because Mickelson, a five-time major champion and six-time runner-up in our nation’s championship, turned 45 years old on Tuesday.
Interestingly enough, that means on Sunday that he’ll be just 10 days younger than the oldest U.S. Open champion in history — Hale Irwin — was when he collected his third U.S. Open title in 1990.
In case you were wondering, the oldest major champion in history was Julius Boros when he won the PGA Championship at age 48 in 1968.
Sure, Mickelson has already won majors since turning 40, but now that he’s officially heading down the back side of the decade, time is of the essence now more than ever before and any win will either be or boarder on being an historic performance.
“I don’t feel that sense of urgency,” Mickelson told the media on Tuesday. “I really would love to complete the career Grand Slam. I feel like in this day and age — I’m in the best shape I’ve been in.”
Mickelson believes he’s still got a shot and that his swing is continuing to get better, despite getting older.
“I saw a really good glimpse last week,” Mickelson said of his swing. “Maybe it’s this week, maybe it isn’t. Maybe it’s later this year. But I feel like it’s on the verge of coming around. I’ve said that for a while now, but I feel closer and closer each day.”
As always, “Phil is Phil” when it comes to his confidence. He believes – as he always does — that his game is very close and believes he’s taken the correct steps to put himself in position to win this week and has said he “really likes the golf course.
Mickelson enters the week up-beat, feeling like he found the momentum he needs to contend at Chambers Bay during the final round of last week’s FedEx St. Jude Championship.
“I needed momentum and confidence,” Mickelson said last Sunday. “I played really well. It was a day to get some momentum and to get a little bit of confidence. I feel like today was important for me because it validates that what I’ve been working on is the right path and getting a little bit better.”
That being said, CBS Sports’ Kyle Porter points out that may not be the best sign for Mickelson based on past performances.
What will happen to Lefty this week remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure – this is the last real opportunity for Mickelson to control his own destiny.
Regardless of the result, he will once again be a story on Monday morning. We’ll either be celebrating one of the most anticipated, rooted for and popular victories in the history of professional sport or yet another crippling defeat for one of the games most beloved, talented and successful players.
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