by Jeff Skinner
Phil Mickelson heads into the 113th U.S. Open on a bit of a streak. Phil found his short game during the final round of the FedEx St. Jude Classic as he charged to a T2 finish. He’ll need his short game in addition to everything else if he expects to break the U.S. Open jinx that has plagued him all his career.
Philly Mick has a record five second place finishes at the Open, five painful finishes. With him celebrating his 42nd birthday on Sunday, the final day of the Open and Father’s Day, winning the Open would be beyond a fairy tale ending.
Phil’s window of opportunity is closing and this tournament has turned into his white whale. Captain Phil will need to sharpen his game off the tee to be a threat at the relatively short Merion course.
While Merion will be shorter than any U.S. Open course in a decade, 6996 yards, the setup will force players to be straight off the tee to avoid the very deep and probably wet rough. The graduated rough is gone and missing the fairway by a yard will have players straining to find their ball no less hit the green.
Phil has always been a long hitter but accuracy with his driver has been suspect to say the least. In an effort to combat his wildness with the Big Dawg he has experimented with everything from two drivers in the bag to a experimental, beefed up 3-wood called “Phrankenwood” to his latest creation he used this week at Memphis.
At the St. Jude he used another club for his latest driver, a Callaway X Hot 3Deep fairway wood. It has a taller face than the normal fairway wood and he seems more comfortable with this one.
At the St. Jude he was able to hit 55% of the fairways (slightly better than his season average) and was T33 in the field for the week. And he didn’t lose much distance averaging 314 yards off the tee. But missing the fairways at the TPC Southwind is much less penal than missing it at Merion.
With wet weather predicted for the week at Merion the rough is bound to be thick and moist, not a perfect formula for hitting greens from a wayward tee shot. But if anyone can excel at it, it’s Phil. And remember he leads the tour in birdie average and is eighth in strokes gained putting.
Maybe this will be the ultimate birthday present for Phil, a U.S. Open Trophy. But in order for him to finally land his white whale he’ll have to keep his tee ball under control and let that magical wedge of his work its magic.
Could this be the headline on Sunday evening? “Mickelson’s Magic Masters Merion” oh, that would be some birthday gift.