US Open Golf 2012: Phil Mickelson Creates Buzz in Quest for 5th Major

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US Open Golf 2012: Phil Mickelson Creates Buzz in Quest for 5th Major
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Phil Mickelson will pursue the U.S. Open this week, chasing a championship that has eluded the normally-affable lefty throughout his sterling PGA career.

Mickelson recently made waves when he withdrew from the Memorial Tournament in Dublin, Ohio, after an opening round 79, citing fans' use of cell phones as a cause of mental fatigue.

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Mickelson complained from the fairway at Jack Nicklaus' tournament about fans using cell phones...by using his cell phone.

ESPN reports cell phones will not be permitted at the U.S. Open at the Olympic Club in San Francisco.

Can Phil Mickelson recover the ranking that once corresponded with his notoriety? Or are fans witnessing the twilight of a once brilliant career?

Though his decline pales in comparison to the very public flame-out of Tiger Woods, Mickelson last won a major tournament in a dramatic victory over Lee Westwood at the 2010 Masters. 

Dropping from No. 1 after that 2010 victory to 13th by 2012, the popular mainstay on the PGA tour risks the usurpation of his place in golf's circle of contenders at the hands of young guns like Rory McIlroy and experienced pros like Lee Westwood.

With his drive slowly retracting as age takes its toll, the San Jose Mercury News reported that Mickelson tended to his short game in the run-up to the U.S. Open. This could augur well for Lefty, as he could potentially use those shorter drives to his advantage. 

Can Phil Mickelson finally capture that elusive U.S. Open title?

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At 4:1 odds, Mickelson still enjoys the respect of a top-five golfer and with good reason. According to PGA.com, while Mickelson's driving distance has dropped from 13th on the tour in 2010 to 41st in 2012, his GIR percentage has greatly improved.

Additionally, Mickelson averages nearly half a birdie more per round in comparison to 2010, which supports Bleacher Report writer Michael Moraitis' theory that the US Open is Mickelson's best shot at a fifth major.

Despite Mickelson's window opening through the ruination of longtime rival Tiger Woods, the McIlroys, the Darren Clarkes, Bubba Watsons and Charl Schwartzels have claimed legitimacy before Mickelson's very eyes and in some cases, seized titles at Mickelson's favored course, Augusta National.

Off to a hot start in 2012 after winning the AT&T Pro-Am at Pebble Beach, Mickelson arrives at San Francisco's Olympic Club with plenty of solid golf left in him at 41 years old.

Mickelson will play with Woods and Watson for the first two rounds, a pairing the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's Bob Wolfley described as a favor to ESPN.

In 30 rounds of play together, Woods and Mickelson have both averaged between 69-70 strokes, with Mickelson winning 75 percent of the matchups since 2007, according to ESPN.

The pairing delivers fans the young-old and Woods-Mickelson narrative which they hunger for, all in one convenient, three-player playoff.

You can follow me on Twitter: @StepanekButton

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