Every year when the U.S. Open rolls around, the talk of this grueling tournament inevitably turns to the trial and tribulations of Phil Mickelson. Even when Tiger Woods is in the field, one of the main storylines followed typically revolves around Lefty and his never-ending quest to win the only major that has eluded him.
Following his near-miss at Merion in 2013 and his history at Pinehurst with Payne Stewart in 1999, the “now or never” talk surrounding Phil and the U.S. Open has been ratcheted up to a few notches. Combine that with his advancing age, his name being mentioned in a recent insider trading probe, and the power vacuum on tour created by the absence of Tiger, and the sport of golf is increasingly Lefty-centric these days.
Ever the crowd favorite, a large portion of fans would welcome the site of Phil getting over the hump and winning the tourney that in some ways has come to define him. Though he has now won five major championships (including an out of left field weekend performance that led him to capturing the 2013 Open Championship), part of which makes Phil such a likeable guy is all of the heartbreak he has endured throughout the years at this event. The second best golfer of his generation and arguably one of the top ten golfers of all-time, he is such a talented performer that it’s hard to discuss Phil without lamenting the fact that he left left two or three majors on the table. Personally, I can’t think of Lefty’s storied career without flashing back to the putt made by Payne in 1999, his decision to pull out the driver on the 72nd hole at Winged Foot, and him flying the green on the 13th a year ago at Merion.
Phil’s 2014 PGA season has been uneven thus far, filled with zero wins, no top ten finishes, and a handful of missed cuts. He even missed the weekend at the Masters in April, an event he traditionally fairs well at. His lack of success of late has done little to dim his optimism on the eve of the start at Pinehurst, as he feels his game is right where it needs to be and that he can work his way into contention once again. The ability he has around the greens and along with his propensity to successfully pull off a wide array of shots will definitely serve him well as he attempts to navigate around the treacherous No. 2 course.
A few months ago, Phil expressed his belief that when it’s all said and done he will have won a couple of U.S. Opens. A bold statement perhaps, but you have to appreciate the man’s perpetual enthusiasm. As a fan of Lefty’s, the history of the game, and those who ultimately grind their way to redemption, I hope he makes his mark this weekend and finishes the deal, reminding us all that it is never too late capitalize on opportunities.