SOUTHAMPTON, NEW YORK | Here we are again.
Or, more correctly, here Phil Mickelson is again.
Another U.S. Open. Another chance to fill the one remaining hole on his résumé. Another opportunity at Shinnecock Hills.
Everyone knows the Mickelson/U.S. Open story by now. This will be his 27th start in the U.S. Open and it’s the only major championship he hasn’t won, though he has finished second six times, more than any player in history.
Mickelson, who will turn 48 on Saturday, had a chance to win at Shinnecock in 1995 when Corey Pavin won and he had another chance in 2004 when Retief Goosen won. In ’95, Mickelson made a mess of the par-5 16th hole to ruin his week. In ’04, he double-bogeyed the par-3 17th hole, catching a bad break in a bunker at the worst possible moment.
So here he is again.
Same pre-tournament story. Different chapter. Fill in the blank.
“Now that I’ve won the other three majors, it’s U.S. Open specific. I would love to win this one to win all four. That’s certainly a goal and nothing I’m shying away from,” Mickelson said.
“But the more I think about winning, the more it detracts away from my focus and the process of playing a round on Thursday. So I don’t really want to try to win right now. I just want to get in for the weekend.”
There has always been a mad-scientist quality about Mickelson, which at least partially explains his sometimes unconventional approach. When the U.S. Open was at Torrey Pines 10 years ago, Mickelson chose to play what was then the longest course in U.S. Open history without a driver in his bag.
Last year, Mickelson skipped the U.S. Open at Erin Hills to attend his daughter’s high school graduation.
This year, Mickelson’s theme is built around taking the long view. He loves the Shinnecock setup, particularly the run-off areas around the greens which should accentuate his short game skills more than the more traditional thick collar of rough around the putting surfaces. He speaks glowingly of how the USGA has prepared the course.
Listen to Mickelson talk this week and he sounds almost like a spiritual advisor counseling patience and enjoying the journey.
“My goal is not to try to win on Thursday. My goal is to stay in it Thursday, stay in it Friday, and have an opportunity for the weekend,” Mickelson said.
“So I’m not really thinking about winning right now. I’m thinking about getting in it for the weekend. But certainly, the final leg for me of completing the Grand Slam is this event.
“It’s just that I don’t want to get ahead of myself, and I don’t want to start thinking about results. I just want to go out and play a solid round on Thursday, given the conditions, and shoot a number that’s good relative to what the conditions of the course are and worry about trying to close it out on the weekend.”
It’s another chance for Mickelson to write a different ending to this long-running story.