If Phil Mickelson is to remarkably defy age a second major championship in a row, he must also defy some staggering odds. Mickelson turned 51 on Wednesday, on the eve of the U.S. Open, a major in which he is winless with six maddening runner-up finishes.
After he stunned the golf world — and the sports world — by winning the PGA Championship a month ago, a lot of people were giddy with the idea — Mickelson included — that he could also improbably win the U.S. Open, here in his backyard at Torrey Pines.
However, a first-round 4-over 75 on Thursday put him a full eight shots behind Russell Henley, who was the Open leader at 4-under 67 when Mickelson signed for his round that disappointed not only him but his legion of fans, whose cell phones were beeping and chirping all through his round.
“I had some chances to get the round a little bit better,” Mickelson said afterward. “I fought hard, made a lot of short putts to kind of keep myself in it and then I ended up bogeying six and seven (on my second nine). (Shooting 73) would have been a pretty good round and I ended up at four (over), so I'm a little disappointed about that. I'm close to putting together a good round.”
If that sounds like whistling past the graveyard, or at least humming past the PGA Tour Champions, Mickelson’s monologue all year had been about how close he was. Then, he won the PGA at Kiawah Island and said he told us so.
“I don't think my expectations have changed, but I feel like I have the confidence and ability to play well enough to get in contention, and so I guess my disappointment when I don't play to that level is a little bit greater,” he said.
“I'm hitting enough fairways to give myself chances, and I'm optimistic that I'll put together a good round tomorrow,” he said. He’d better or this chase for eternal youth will end with a slamming of the car trunk Friday afternoon.
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