Mickelson takes Major lift from fifth 'Pebble' title after vintage show
Phil Mickelson has a date with destiny when he returns to Pebble Beach in June seeking the perfect 49th birthday present - the US Open and that elusive final leg of the career Grand Slam.
But after coming from three strokes behind Paul Casey, carding a faultless, seven-under 65 to capture his fifth AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am title by three shots, the left-hander sounded a word of warning to Rory McIlroy and the rest of golf's young guns.
Forget the pain of those six US Open runner-up finishes. Mickelson's first goal is that fourth green jacket and he believes that even now, at the age of 48, he has the power and the putting touch to give McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and the rest a run for their money in eight weeks' time.
"I really don't think there is any carry over to the US Open," Mickelson said, after finishing par-birdie in a Monday finish at a soggy Pebble Beach to win his 44th PGA Tour title on 19-under par and pass the $90 million mark in career earnings.
"I just really enjoy this place. I have such great memories here and I would love nothing more than to add to it, five months from now. But that's so far down the road. All I am focusing on right now is the Masters... That's where I am right now mentally."
What excites him is that he's putting as well as he has at any time in his career and has found an extra "5-6 mph swing speed" he believes that could be the key at the Masters, even if he conceded that winning 50 times on the PGA Tour might prove a challenge.
"When guys get in their 40s, two things decline, their putting and their swing speed," said the new world number 17, who is now swinging at close to 120 mph.
"My putting is the best it's been in my 28-year career, and my swing speed is as fast as it's ever been. I had a 5-6mph jump in the last three or four months.
"It's been a lot of work - bio-mechanic swing studies, taking weaknesses and making them strengths, time in the gym - but days like this make it worthwhile."
He believes power and the short game are the keys at the Masters and Pebble Beach confirmed not just that he's on track to contend at Augusta, but that there's hope for golf's 40-somethings, including Tiger Woods.
"I think both myself and Tiger are going to have a really great year this year," he said.
He wasn't the only man who left Pebble Beach with a smile.
Graeme McDowell, the 2010 US Open champion there, was buoyed by a tied 18th finish in his first start since suffering a wrist injury on December 28.
The Portrush man turns 39 in July and while he lost his PGA Tour card last year and must rely in invitations to fill out his schedule, he wants desperately to be at Royal Portrush for The Open.
"The bottom line is I have to do well between now and then but I so want to be there," said McDowell who is 246th in the world and not yet qualified for the Masters or the US PGA.
"I was coming here this week with a little trepidation," said McDowell, who does not get to join McIlroy or Seamus Power in Los Angeles for this week's Genesis Open and will be playing in opposite field Puerto Rico Open next week rather than the $2.25 million WGC Mexico Championship.
"I wasn't quite sure who I was going to feel. So to come and play this solidly this week, was really pleasing."
He is certain to be at Pebble Beach in June, however, and can't wait.
"To be part of the lore of Pebble Beach, the history of Pebble Beach, I walk around here pinching myself," he said.
"It's iconic, it's amazing, and I can scarcely believe I am part of the deal around here and I am looking forward to getting back here as quasi-defending champion."