OAKMONT, PENNSYLVANIA | Phil Mickelson is talking like a man who believes he can win this U.S. Open.
With a record six runner-up finishes, Mickelson could be forgiven if he were to surrender to fate in the chase for the one major championship that has eluded him, sometimes with bitter cruelty.
Winged Foot and Merion come to mind.
But this is Oakmont, the biggest and baddest of the U.S. Open venues and the immediate opportunity for the birthday boy – Mickelson will turn 46 on Thursday – to catch what he’s been chasing all these years.
With all the talk of how difficult and unforgiving Oakmont can be, Mickelson has a simple mantra: Bring it on.
“I think that there’s no reprieve off the tee, there’s no reprieve into the greens, and there’s certainly no reprieve on the greens,” Mickelson said. “Now, with all that being said, I believe it also gives me the best chance because after 25 years, you have to really know how to play this style of golf.
“It’s just not like a regular Tour event. It’s not like going out and playing golf at any other golf course. This is a whole different style of golf, something that over the years I’ve become very effective at playing.
“Because of that, I would love to see it cross the line the way U.S. Opens often do, and become a little bit over the edge. That actually benefits me because we’re going to have a winner at the end of the week. Whatever that score is – who cares if it’s 5 under or 12 over, doesn’t matter – the lowest score wins.”
Mickelson has amended his typical prep work for a major championship to fly back to San Diego to attend the middle school graduation of one of his children. He jetted back to western Pennsylvania overnight Tuesday and got in his last bit of pretournament work Wednesday afternoon.
He’s coming off a second-place finish in the FedEx St. Jude Classic last week, another good showing in a strong season that’s still lacking a victory. Mickelson believes the most critical element of handling Oakmont will be placing tee shots in play and, consequently, he expects to hit about four drivers each round. That could change depending on the conditions.
“I love a quote that Stephen Hawking says: ‘Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.’ And that’s going to be critical here at Oakmont because, as the conditions change, the tee shots are going to change,” Mickelson said.
“As the fairways get firm with the contour, you’re going to have to play to different parts of the fairway. As the pin placements move and the green moisture changes from softer to firmer or what have you, you have to adapt how you play this golf course.”
If Mickelson can win at Oakmont, it would complete the career professional Grand Slam, making him just the sixth player in history to accomplish it.
“I could BS you and tell you I don’t think about it,” he said. “No, I think about it all the time.
“This is the tournament I want to win the most to complete the four majors. There’s no question. I have to put that out of my head and try to execute and be patient and not think about results. You start thinking about results, you’ll never play your best golf.”