Phil Mickelson has enjoyed a career that 99 per cent of PGA Tour pros could only have dreamed of, but one piece of the puzzle continues to elude him.
The 46-year-old Californian has five Major Championships to his name, along with 42 regular PGA Tour wins. His consistency has been underlined by 11 consecutive appearances for the United States in the Ryder Cup. He is also undoubtedly one of the most popular golfers on tour, if not the most popular.
For all of the success Mickelson has achieved throughout his highly-decorated career, the U.S. Open has proven to be elusive. He hasn’t given up hope just yet, however. His performance at Royal Troon in the 2016 Open Championship served as validation to not only himself, but golf fans in general, that he still has what it takes to compete at the very highest level. If it wasn’t for Henrik Stenson’s spectacular play, the experienced American would be a double Open champion by now.
Can Mickelson produce that kind of golf again though?
The next major up on the agenda is the U.S. Open. It is being held at Erin Hills in Wisconsin for the first time. Most of the world’s top 50 will fancy their chances, heading into an event where nobody in the field will have any real kind of experience of playing at the venue. The ‘new-age’, ultra-modern style golf course can be stretched to over 7,800 yards, so length off of the tee will be a prerequisite for the eventual winner.
The USGA are renowned for setting up every U.S. Open venue in the most brutal of fashions, however. As a consequence, it will not only be length that is needed. Consistent, accurate drives will be required in order to tame the beastly layout.
This is where Mickelson could encounter problems. He has never been the straightest of drivers, even when he was at his very best. Keeping his ball in the short stuff will be of paramount importance, if he is to win his national championship for the first time.
He does have the best short game in golf – bar none, however. His Houdini-like skills in and around the greens have saved him many a time, and he will need that part of his game to be razor sharp come June 15th.
Is it all just about winning?
Never write off Mickelson. He is usually at his best in the face of adversity, with his back up against the wall. With six runner-up finishes to his name at golf’s second major, there is nobody more deserving of winning the U.S. Open than Mickelson.
If he fails to win the elusive trophy by the time his career ends, however, it will have little impact on his reputation.
The greatest honour that could be bestowed upon him is that he is equally as down to earth and approachable as he is a great champion. He has received high adulation for the time he invests in signing autographs after tournaments, irrespective of how he has played. When he hangs up the spikes, he will be remembered for how much joy he gave the fans throughout his trophy-laden career, and that is a the real mark of true success.
There is no denying that the U.S. Open trophy would be the icing on the cake though.