‘As I’ve gotten older, I have a hard time focusing:’ Why Phil Mickelson is struggling

Phil Mickelson during Friday's second round of the Valspar Championship.

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Phil Mickelson had just bogeyed two of his last three holes at the Valspar Championship to miss the cut by a stroke, he hasn’t had a top 10 since last August, and his press conference afterward sounded like it.  

Talk about your day out there, the first questioner said. 

“I had an enjoyable day. It’s a good golf course, and I enjoyed the challenge of playing it,” Mickelson answered. 

Anything particular you felt went wrong coming in, the questioner asked. 

“I felt like what?” Mickelson answered. 

Anything particular you felt went wrong coming in the last few holes,” the questioner asked again. 

“Not really,” Mickelson answered. 

You’re planning to play next week, Wells Fargo, the questioner said. What else is on the calendar?

“I’ll play there and the PGA, for sure,” Mickelson answered. 

Any plans for Champions Tour coming up, the questioner asked. 

“Not in the foreseeable — nothing foreseeable,” Mickelson answered. 

Granted, Mickelson wasn’t being asked for his thoughts on the first 100 days of the Joe Biden presidency. But this is Phil. He muses even on the mundane. Something was off. 

Then came the next question. Another softball — what do you take out of today’s round? The 50-year-old five-time major champion really didn’t answer it. But his response likely answered more. 

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“I know what my problem is,” he said. “I’m not physically able to keep my focus. As I’ve gotten older, I have a hard time focusing. And that’s my challenge right now, and I’m trying to come up with — I’m trying all different things to be able to elongate my ability to stay focused or to refocus. 

“But when I get called off shots, like cellphones ringing or people yelling or something, my physical ability to refocus, to back away and then refocus and so forth, I’m not able — I’m physically not able to do it right now.”

That was more than “I had an enjoyable day.”

When asked for specifics, Mickelson said it happens sporadically. He pointed to the Masters at the start of the month. He tied for 21st. But on Thursday, he played holes 7 through 12 at four over. On Friday, he opened with two straight bogeys. “I just kind of go mind numb and my ability to regain focus has been the biggest challenge as I’ve gotten older,” he said.

In three weeks, as he mentioned, he will play in the PGA. In June, he hopes to play in the U.S. Open, in his hometown of San Diego, though he still hasn’t qualified. Though he said he’s met “with a lot of people and trying to figure this out,” he’s aware this all may be difficult to answer before then. 

Is he closer or farther away after this week, he was asked later in the post-round interview.

“I don’t know. I don’t know.”

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Nick Piastowski

Nick Piastowski

Golf.com Editor

Nick Piastowski is a Senior Editor at Golf.com and Golf Magazine. In his role, he is responsible for editing, writing and developing stories across the golf space. And when he’s not writing about ways to hit the golf ball farther and straighter, the Milwaukee native is probably playing the game, hitting the ball left, right and short, and drinking a cold beer to wash away his score. You can reach out to him about any of these topics — his stories, his game or his beers — at nick.piastowski@golf.com.