After Masters runner-up, Phil Mickelson’s PGA is off to a ‘terrible’ start
ROCHESTER, N.Y. — If you wanted to know everything about Phil Mickelson’s golf game at the PGA Championship, you didn’t need to look very hard.
The answer could be found on Friday afternoon just a few feet from the main gate — on the Oak Hill driving range — some 30 minutes after Mickelson’s second round concluded. It was here that Mickelson arrived for his day’s second practice session, caddie and launch monitor in tow, around 2:30 p.m. ET.
The practice itself was not particularly revealing. Lots of players wander out to the range after the completion of play. On Friday, Xander Schauffele was among the stragglers who joined Mickelson in the practice area after finishing his second round. But what came after it was.
A few minutes into Mickelson’s range session, around 3 p.m., Tim Mickelson walked away from his brother and broke into a sprint. It had just started to drizzle, and Tim, who is also Phil’s caddie, looked like a man on a mission.
Soon Tim was gone and Phil looked up at the sky. A breeze blew in, and the rain started to fall harder. One by one, the pros dotting the driving range began to collect their things and leave. Except, of course, for Phil. He kept working, pounding ball after ball into the gray afternoon sky.
A few minutes after he left, Tim reappeared with a rain jacket. The heavy stuff was only starting to fall, but the Mickelson crew wasn’t close to done.
All things considered, the PGA hasn’t been that bad for Mickelson. He rests at five over par through two rounds at Oak Hill, a score that will likely be good enough to see him through to the weekend, besting names like Rickie Fowler, Billy Horschel and Jason Day to get there. But a runner-up finish at the Masters — combined with Phil’s own proclamation of an impending “tear” — left expectations sky-high. The PGA has not proven good for that.
“I came in here very optimistic. The first two days I’ve played terrible,” he said bluntly Friday. “I’ve driven it poorly. I’ve not felt good with the putter. I haven’t chipped great. My irons have been average.”
Let’s quickly recount our adjectives: terrible, poorly, not good, not great, average. That’s — to borrow from Phil — not great!
Which brings us back to the practice range on Friday afternoon. If things have been so bad for Phil, why bother going out to the range at all? It’s a fair question — one Phil seemed to be grappling with himself on Friday afternoon.
“This is as bad as I’ve played in a long time, and yet I’m still here on the weekend, and I have a chance to turn it around,” he said. “It makes me optimistic that I still made the cut playing as poorly as I did. I think if I can get it turned around, I can make a run.”
A run is what Mickelson needed to enter the conversation at Augusta National. A furious, final-round 65 capped by birdies on the 17th and 18th holes. That run didn’t start until a rainy Saturday blew into a dry, cool Sunday, making for ideal scoring conditions for a player of Mickelson’s advantageousness.
The good news for Phil? Rochester is expecting rain on Saturday, and a good amount of it. A softer, more forgiving course could be exactly what he needs to make a move — or a few of them.
“You’ve got to hit good shots, I’m just a fraction off,” he said. “It’s not far off. If I can just get it to click, I have a chance to make a run. I’m going to have to go work on it right now.”
It might not be far off. But in the meantime, you know where to find him.