Phil Mickelson: What Experts Are Saying About Lefty at Olympic Club
Between 1999 and 2003, Phil Mickelson had six second or third-place finishes in Majors, earning him the dubious title of Best Player to Never Win a Major. Though Mickelson has since discarded this title, earning three green jackets and a PGA Championship, the U.S. Open continues to stymie him, having finished in second place five times.
Last year's Open was particularly disappointing for Mickelson, who finished tied for 54th place, his worst performance in the tournament since 2003.
Lefty's legion of fans are concerned about Mickelson's chances to conquer the Open when he withdrew from the Memorial Tournament due to fatigue after posting his worst score on the tour in almost a decade. Yet his fans have plenty of reasons to remain hopeful. Mickelson already has a tour win this year, as well as four more top-10 finishes. He is ranked third in the world, his highest ranking since 2009, the last time he placed tied for second at the Open.
Though Lefty will have the support of his many admirers, experts have expressed starkly contrasting opinions as to whether Lefty has what it takes to add another major victory to his list of accomplishments.
We'll look at what some of the leading figures in the golf world have to say about Mickelson's chances at Olympic.
Johnny Miller: NBC Sports' Lead Golf Analyst
In a recent conference call with golf reports, Johnny Miller said of Mickelson's chances:
The factor has been his driver. He has almost won the Open despite his crazy driving of the ball. If he would have driven the ball well in any one of those five runner-ups, he would have won at least one Open, and probably two or three Opens. You remember at Winged Foot, he hit like three fairways the whole last round and almost won the dang thing. The guy’s like a magician.
This is going to be one of the hardest driving courses in the history of modern Opens. The thing I do like about Phil is his little, high draw really sets up great for a lot of the approach shots to the greens, but that being said, Olympic is a precision course.
So, he’s going to have to change his aggressive style of play and make it fit Olympic Club, otherwise, he won’t have a chance of contending.
via: Golf Channel
Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about the US Open, having won the tournament twice himself. He offered his opinion on Mickelson's performance on ESPN.
Well I think Phil is a different type of character. I think Phil has a very short memory, and I don't think he'll take poor play at the Memorial and take it into the US Open. He seems to go through the motions at a lot of the smaller events but he gets up for the big events. I expect him to do well there if he can get his swing under control. As a player, you never want to withdraw from an event, especially a big one like Jack's event at Memorial. But I think you have to do what's good for your own self and your golf game, and he knew he was exhausted and he knew he had a week and half to get ready for the Open, which is his biggest tournament for the year.
Jeff Ritter: Senior Producer, Golf.com
Though Golf.com's Jeff Ritter is picking Matt Kuchar to win the Open, he recently picked Mickelson to finish tops in the opening power trio of Tiger Woods, Bubba Watson and Phil Mickelson. Ritter said:
Has everyone forgotten what Phil's been doing to Tiger head-to-head lately? Can't get Pebble out of my head for this one. Give me Phil, then Tiger, then Bubba for the first two rounds.
Dave Pelz: Golf Pro
The legendary golf coach Dave Pelz has been preparing Mickelson for the Open. He recently told the Silicon Valley Mercury News:
He's as good as I've ever seen out of this...His short game is good, although this course is very tough. In the rough, you can see the ball, find it, and it's not unfair or awful, but it's very difficult in the sense that the ball sits down, the grass is strong and even though you can get a club on it, you don't know if it's going to come out soft and just dump right in front of you, or if it's going to spin or not spin. The greens are very firm and fast. We worked on it for two straight days.
When asked about Mickelson's disastrous performance and early withdrawal at Memorial, Pelz responded:
Oh, he's back, absolutely. Sometimes you just go so hard and you do so much, you don't realize how tired you're getting. He had just gotten tired.
It's one thing for experts to pontificate about who will win when they have nothing on the line; it's another thing to back up a prediction with cash. Las Vegas odds reflect the opinions of those with hunches strong enough to risk money. Though fan-favorites like Mickelson and Tiger Woods always get a boost due to their popularity, the odds are a still a good reflection of where those with a lot to lose believe each golfer will end up.
According to Vegas Insider, Woods is the favorite at 6/1, with Luke Donald and Rory McIlroy each trailing at 12/1. Tied for fourth are Mickelson, Lee Westwood and the field (golfers other than the top picks), each at 15/1.
This puts Mickelson at the very top of the board, ahead of golfers like Matt Kuchar (25/1), Bubba Watson (30/1), Louis Oosthuizen (50/1) and the trio of long shots Olin Browne, Kelly Kraft and Michael Campbell, each at 300/1.
The money line will move as the Open gets closer, but those with money on the line believe that Mickelson is one of the biggest threats to win the Open.
Of course, none of the experts can talk about Mickelson's chances with the same certitude that Lefty himself can. He recently told PGATour.com:
We've played the TOUR Championship there a few times, played okay in the '98 Open. I like the golf course. I think that what's great about Olympic, what's challenging about Olympic is a number of things, one of them is how thick the air is. Ball really gets affected by the wind, by the air. You've got the swirling winds in the trees. You've got small greens and you've got a lot of side-hill lies. I think it's a really good shot maker's -- creative shot maker's golf course because you're not going to have driving-range lies, and you're not going to be hitting straight shots into those greens. You've got to carve and work the ball to hold them on those greens as much pitch as they have.
via: Yahoo! Sports