PEBBLE BEACH, CALIFORNIA – Could this be the week Phil Mickelson has been chasing for nearly five years?
There is the imposing presence of Dustin Johnson sitting comfortably atop the leaderboard with Beau Hossler midway through the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am but two sun-splashed days into an event he has won four times previously, Mickelson is close enough to the lead to entertain the thought of picking up his first victory since the 2013 Open Championship at Muirfield.
With two weekend rounds at Pebble Beach, Mickelson so far has the scorecards to validate his growing confidence.
“I was expecting to play like this the first couple of weeks so the first couple of weeks was a little disappointing,” Mickelson said after shooting 65 Friday at Monterey Peninsula Country Club. “But now the scores are starting to come out, I’m able to get out of the mechanics of it and just start playing the round and hitting shots. I’m very optimistic about this weekend and I’m optimistic about the year.”
Coming off a T5 last week at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, Mickelson shook off a bad start Thursday at Spyglass Hill – he shot 2-over par on his first nine holes – and has played his last 27 holes in 11-under par. With his amateur partner Jimmy Dunne and grouped with Rory and Gerry McIlroy the first three rounds, Mickelson has looked fully at ease.
He said recently that his goal is to improve his driving accuracy to “average” and that’s about what Mickelson has done so far, hitting 17 of 27 fairways.
“My ball striking overall has been really good and my iron play’s always been a strength of my game (and) you saw more of it because I was in the fairway a lot more often,” Mickelson said. “That’s kind of been the goal is not only hit fairways, but I’m also getting my speed back up. I’m not able to keep it up with Rory yet, I don’t know if I ever will, but I’m able to get it out there now where I can be competitive.”
And at least think about the possibilities this weekend.
“It’s fun to be in the mix, it’s fun to go over to Pebble Beach now and play two rounds on the weekend knowing that I have a chance and being in the thick of it,” Mickelson said.