Phil Mickelson: Why He Is Slumping This Summer on Tour

Ron JuckettContributor IIIJuly 6, 2012

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, WV - JULY 5: Phil Mickelson stands on the green on the 17th hole during the first round of the Greenbrier Classic at the Old White TPC on July 5, 2012 in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)
Hunter Martin/Getty Images

Something just is not right with Phil Mickelson.

The Hall of Fame golfer has missed the cut or withdrawn in two out of his last three events.

The withdrawal came after an opening-round 79 at Jack Nicklaus’ tournament, The Memorial in Ohio. Mickelson bitterly complained about cell phones with the fans after his lone round.

Mickelson’s next tournament was the US Open in San Francisco, where he was widely expected to contend for his first Open title. Instead, his opening tee shot on Thursday ended up lost up a cypress tree and it went downhill from there.

This week’s stop at The Greenbrier in West Virginia saw Phil fire two consecutive one-over par rounds, and it was an early weekend for one of the PGA Tour’s biggest fan favorites.

Statistically, nothing seems too much amiss.

Mickelson is 142nd this year in driving accuracy, but that is an improvement from years past. The last time he was in the top 100 for a season in hitting the fairways was in 2000. Last year, he was 177th and two years ago he was 188th. Accuracy, at least on the surface, is not the problem.

Or is it the problem?

Phil plays a very mentally demanding game. Because he plays out of the rough so often—hitting barely over 55 percent of his fairways—he has to scramble to put the ball on the green and then put extra pressure on himself to make good putts.

If Phil is having problems with concentration—a very real possibility considering his odd behavior in withdrawing from The Memorial—then this run of bad results is not all that surprising.

Never a good on-course manager of his game, his decision to keep using his driver in the opening round of the Open, despite the fact he could not control where those drives went, was really puzzling—even for Phil.

While one cannot win a major on the first day, one can certainly shoot themselves out of one. Phil’s opening 76 at Olympic Club took him out of serious contention as the sun set that Thursday night.

Mickelson has reached the point of his career where he really should not be playing tournaments unless he really wants to be there and can prepare for them. The FedEx Cup, the contrived PGA Tour playoff, probably not all that important to Mickelson, so his season can run pretty much from February to the end of August if he really wants.

Phil has even said that his game is all set up to do well in the four majors at this point. He is playing for history, and with 41 wins on tour has earned the right to do just that.

Mickelson, however, has to be ready to actually play well at these majors. His effort at the Open was so bad it really was a surprise.

Paul Azinger on ESPN commented that weekend that he hoped this was not a physical problem with Mickelson. Phil is a diagnosed arthritic and a paid spokesman for the drug Enbrel.

If this is indeed a physical problem, his fans will understand if he needs some time away.

If this is a mental issue that has nothing to do with anyone’s health, then Mickelson should not be playing in tournaments that he is not prepared to play. He is too good to be playing this poorly.