Phil Mickelson and the US Open is, to this day, a match made in hell. It’s the only major the American hasn’t won and therefore the only major holding him back from the illustrious career grand slam. To make matters worse for Mickelson, he’s finished second at the event six times.
In his head, the 46-year-old perhaps needs to complete the career-grand slam before feeling justified to rank himself as an all-time great. Whether that’s true or not, his status would be undeniable were he to win at Erin Hills this week.
That’s why it came as such a surprise to the golfing community when Mickelson said he wouldn’t be playing this year’s US Open as he would be attending the high school graduation of daughter; after all, the eldest winner of a major is Jack Nicklaus at 46, Mickelson will be 47 by the next time the US Open comes around.
Mickelson, though, has since enlightened the situation somewhat, confessing that if ‘unforeseen circumstances’ were to arise then he would play – hence he has not withdrawn. The likeliest of these circumstances is a weather-delay and Mickelson believes a four hour set-back might just do the job. Right now rain on Tuesday and Wednesday and Friday, Saturday and Sunday sandwiches a clear Thursday in the forecasts – a prediction like that is always dubious.
If Mickelson were to make it to Erin Hills in time for his first tee shot, he would only have taken the first few steps of a mile-long stretch to victory. As to be expected, almost the strongest field possible, with 58 of the world’s top 60, are to take to the fairways including defending-champion Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and the like.
Johnson is currently the favourite to take the title and, in doing so, would be the first main to win the US Open back-to-back since Curtis Strange in 1988 and 1989. Incidentally, Johnson tees off in a three-ball with Spieth and Martin Kaymer: the three previous winners of this event.
If Mickelson can find the game in him to overcome a pristine field at Erin Hills, then there’s the simple matter of taking on the 7,700 yard par 72 course. With such sheer length, the course is set out to favour longer-hitters with a greater ability to open their shoulders up than Mickelson. Furthermore, he’s known as a scrambling wizard, but from first looks Erin Hills is set-up to punish anyone off track with tight fairways and harsh hazards: a condition that won’t suit leftie’s erraticism off the tee.
There’s a boosted 600 FedExCup points, a $2.16million winner’s prize-cut and a major championship up for grabs for the number one this week; but for Mickelson it would culminate a career’s work and an eternal legacy. But let’s just hope he can make it in time first.