Wednesday 15 August 2018

Mickelson refuses to get caught up in Grand Slam talk

Phil Mickelson. Photo: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA Today Sports/File Photo
Phil Mickelson. Photo: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA Today Sports/File Photo

Brian Keogh

Phil Mickelson has not ruled out coming to Lahinch for next year's Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.

But he's also learned from bitter experience that it's never good to get too far ahead of yourself and that's why he's putting all thoughts of winning the US Open out of his mind until Friday night.

As he chases the final leg of the career Grand Slam in an event where he's been runner-up six times, he looks at Shinnecock Hills as a great opportunity to etch his name in the history book, providing he can stay in the present.

Asked if he'd ever tried to win a US Open on Thursday, he quipped: "Yes, and I was home Friday night."

Taking it one shot at a time is a well-worn golfing cliché but it's key for Mickelson, who can become the second oldest Major winner in the modern era on Sunday - the day after his 48th birthday.

If he's to pull it off, he knows he can't think about joining Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Bobby Jones, Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan and Gary Player in the career Grand Slam-winning club just yet.

It's all about emerging unscathed after playing the first two rounds with Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth and while he will have another chance at Pebble Beach next year and at Winged Foot in 2020, he also knows he's running out of time to put the cherry on top of a storied career that's brought him five Major wins - arguably too few for a player of his quality.

The last thing I'm thinking about right now is trying to win," he said. "I'm trying to get myself in position for the weekend because, when you try to go out and win a US Open, you will lose it quick."

McIlroy and Spieth are two clear rivals, even if the Co Down man has missed the cut in his last two US Opens and the Texan is struggling with the putter.

But Mickelson, who was denied by Retief Goosen when the US Open was last played at an overbaked Shinnecock Hills in 2004, likes what he sees so far.

"It's the best set-up, in my opinion, that we've seen, and the reason I say that is all areas of your game are being tested," he said.

"The chipping and short game around the greens are going to be a huge factor this week.

"I feel as though the luck of a course has been taken out as much as possible to where skill is the primary factor."

McIlroy has accused the USGA of over-thinking when setting up a US Open course and Mickelson feels the same way about his bid to win the tournament. "It's just that I don't want to get ahead of myself," he said. "And I don't want to start thinking about results."

While he's never a man to look too far ahead, he hasn't ruled out playing in the next year's Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Lahinch, where he is an Honorary Life Member, two weeks before The Open at Royal Portrush.

"I haven't looked that far ahead, but I wouldn't rule it out," the left-hander said.

"I have looked at the US schedule for 2019 and it's so dramatically different that I don't know how it affects the rest of my schedule.

"But… I have an affinity with Lahinch and I love going out there for a stretch. It's a great course. One of the best."

Irish Independent

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