‘I’m very close’: Mickelson hopes 66 at PGA is spark his game needs
MOSEL, Wis. — There is a sense of pride when it comes to his perfect attendance, but more so because always it has been earned.
Phil Mickelson doesn’t want that to change. He doesn’t want the charity. “I don’t want to be a (captain’s) pick,” he said. “I haven’t been a pick for 20 years.”
The topic of conversation was the upcoming Presidents Cup, a biennial team competition that has never been played without Mickelson. He was on the first American team in 1994 and he’s been on each of the next nine, always as a qualifier.
But he lags well behind in the standings and as the qualifying deadline nears, Mickelson knows he has to get a move on, that he doesn’t want to rely on captain Jay Haas’ generosity. The smile on his face as he talked told you Mickelson wasn’t going to let this Presidents Cup thing go quietly.
“Rounds like this tell me that I’m very close to having it click,” Mickelson said.
Lefty had just made nine birdies at Whistling Straits to more than offset a few loose shots and with a round of 6-under 66 in Saturday’s third round of the 97th PGA Championship. He had done what he needs to do in the Presidents Cup standings — roar forward.
Having started the day lodged in a share of 61st at 1-over, Mickelson was sitting in a share of 18th when he signed his card. He didn’t appear confident that he would move up much more, not with the course “being gettable” for the leaders — but the greater focus was on finally seeing some improved play.
“It’s been two years since I’ve been at my best and it’s a little disappointing that it’s taken so long,” Mickelson said of a slump that confounds him.
Mickelson, 45, was winless in 2014 for just the third time in his career and the first time since 2003, and he’s without a win in 2015. In his last 36 PGA Tour events, dating back to 2014, Lefty has but four top 10s.
But he remains buoyant, and after finding the fairway with his drives on each of the last eight holes and hitting 10 of 14, there was a spark to his game. A few three-putt bogeys slowed his momentum or else “it could have been in the low 60s and possibly a major (championship) record (62), which would have been special,” he said.
Mickelson was at 5-under and six off the lead as he spoke, but again, at this point it’s all about finding a positive rhythm to end this long stretch of lackluster golf. Carrying third-round momentum into Sunday’s final round of the PGA and then into the first two weeks of the FedEx Cup playoffs, which is when the points race will end for the Presidents Cup? That’s his thought process.
“See where I’m at at that point,” Mickelson said. “I’m certainly far away. But if (the game) clicks, I should be able to win one of those next couple of events and get myself right back up there.”