It is fair to say that there is something really bothering Phil Mickelson.
Since his tie for seventh at the HP Byron Nelson Classic on May 20th, Mickelson has only made the cut at one PGA Tour event since and sandwiched two bad rounds around two good ones in Scotland.
Usually a jovial player on the course, Mickelson groused his way around Royal Lytham & St Annes Friday like a kid shopping for clothes with his mother.
He complained about the rough and complained about the way the holes were cut into the green. When he double-bogeyed back-to-back holes on the back nine, he complained all the way home.
While never really known for having a true game plan coming into a tournament, he has now failed in his last two majors to adapt to the conditions of the course.
It is not like the course was harsh Thursday. Adam Scott fired a course-record-tying 64 while Phil limped home with a 73.
As Brandt Snedeker tied the 36-hole scoring record at 10 under, Mickelson’s patience had run out and he shot a 78, including a back-nine total of 41.
While Tiger Woods has been quite public—almost to the point of harping on it too much—about rebuilding his swing and putting game, Mickelson and his game do not appear to be on speaking terms.
Is he hurt? Is he vacationing too much? Is something else wrong?
This is not just a case of a slump. He had a great run up to the Masters this year, including a win at Pebble Beach. When you carry the track record that Mickelson does, even his biggest fans will question when things go off the rails like this.
If he seemed to be grinding through and being happy on the course, it wouldn't be as much of an issue. You can see the anguish on his face, however.
In baseball, a fastball pitcher has to learn how to change speeds and pitch differently as he gets older to remain effective. Phil is a power golfer that has spent a lifetime being successful with his creativity and length.
We saw Tiger keep the driver in his bag last week and nearly win. We saw Ernie Els go from not even able to qualify for the Masters to being an Open champion again. Mid-career changes can and do work.
Phil plays for these events. He feels, rightly, that he still has a chance to win every time he tees it up.
While he will always be the riverboat gambler on the course, it is clear that something has to change in order for him to compete at a higher level; not only for his fan’s enjoyment, but also for his.