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It was a busy Tuesday for Phil Mickelson but none of it was spent at Oakmont Country Club, but rather at his daughter’s eighth grade graduation.
Normally preparation for Phil Mickelson on a Major week involves taking Monday off, playing a practice round Tuesday and then coming out early Wednesday morning, practicing and taking the afternoon off.
This time, Mickelson practiced Monday, of course took Tuesday off, had a one hour session prior to the Wednesday press conference before spending a couple of hours out on the course.
Mickelson is coming off a tie for second place at the FedEx St. Jude Classic. He has undergone swing changes but also his putter has been a key to the season.
“I’ve had a great year putting,” Mickelson said. “I spent four years studying some stuff with Dave Pelz and going over some stuff on what the best way is for me to putt from different distances, statistically what the numbers show and so forth, and I’ve had really a phenomenal year putting. I think a lot of that is because of the time and the effort that has gone in the last three or four years coming up with different ways, different ways to do it. That different grip from inside ten feet has been extremely effective. It’s really helped me putt really well.”
The U.S. Open is always the time that Mickelson goes over his greatest hits lists. His list though is not highlights, but rather the close calls he has had over the years.
His first was the 2006 version at Winged Foot, which was won by Geoff Ogilvy when Mickelson made a mess of the 18th hole.
“I only had one hole,” said Mickelson. “I made it 71 holes without hitting a fairway and missed it big on 18 to where I had a beautiful lie, perfect, and I let the second — you know, people talk about the tee shot. To me, the second shot, all I had to do is start that 3 iron a little bit further right, miss the tree, and I’m up by the green. And that was the week that my short game was the best it’s been in my career, in ’06. I was only a par away from victory. That’s why I’ll look back on that one.”
As much as everyone believes that U.S. Open collapse was Mickelson’s most devastating, it was the 2013 edition at Merion Golf Club which he remembers most as an opportunity missed.
“The 2013 U.S. Open, I think, is actually my biggest disappointment because I was playing so well,” Mickelson said. “I had an opportunity to win at the back nine where I was leading, and I lost the U.S. Open. That was probably the biggest disappointment of my career, and the following week, I was very difficult to be around. I just wanted to be alone. I ended up having probably my greatest success, which is winning The British Open Championship in 2013. To come off — to have my greatest high within a month of having the greatest low of my career is, I think, my biggest accomplishment.”
The lack of finishing Mickelson has had at the U.S. Open had frequently occurred and
“My career is built on failure, and that has been a motivator for me, because I think how you handle failure is a huge element to becoming successful,” said Mickelson.
Mickelson knows Oakmont is a tough track. After all, the course’s rough claimed his wrist in 2007 and the rough projects to be just as thick this time around.
It puts an even bigger premium for him on hitting the fairway which puts his number of driving holes at a low total.
This means that Mickelson will have to adapt to the changes and find the fairways.
“I love a quote that Stephen Hawking says,” said Mickelson. “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. 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.”