Projecting Phil Mickelson's Day 1 Score at 2013 US Open
Trying to peg Phil Mickelson's ability to contend in tournaments so far during the 2013 PGA Tour season has been one of the most difficult tasks when covering the sport.
Doing so at the 2013 US Open won't be any easier.
Lefty will head to Merion Golf Club this week with his sights set on winning his fifth career major tournament championship. A win would also be Mickelson's first at the US Open and would leave only the British Open left to capture for a career Grand Slam.
As noted by the Golf Channel, Mickelson and the US Open go hand in hand, even if he's never been the recipient of the trophy on Sunday:
Every time Mickelson seems to take a step forward with a tournament win or top-three finish this season, he falters the next week. It's been the case during each of his four such finishes so far in 2013.
|Top-Three Tournament (Finish)||Next Tournament (Finish)|
|Phoenix Open (1)||Pebble Beach (T60)|
|WGC-Cadillac Open (T3)||Arnold Palmer Invitational (CUT)|
|Wells Fargo (3)||Players Championship (CUT)|
|FedEx St. Jude Classic (T2)||US Open (???)|
Layer that with Lefty's past finishes at the Open,and all bets are really off the table.
Mickelson is the king of finishing second at the second major tournament of the year, doing so five times in his professional career. He has three other top-10 finishes at the major in his career, but you almost have to throw that out the window when looking at the fact that the USGA rotates the course each year.
This year the tournament is at Merion for the first time since 1981, and the weather in Pennsylvania has given way to the idea that accuracy and course knowledge are going to be more important than power and past performances on the tour.
Mickelson falls somewhere in between those two sides of the action so far in 2013.
For starters, he's only 160th in driving accuracy on the tour this season. The fact that he's booming his tee shots at just over 291 yards to the fairway is a good sign, but as Kelly Tilghman of the Golf Channel reported on Wednesday, the rough is going to be make or break territory for the field this week:
Rough at Merion is big talking point. Heavy & they're still fertilizing it. Rory McIlroy hit ball in yesterday, couldn't find it— Kelly Tilghman (@KellyTilghmanGC) June 5, 2013
Despite some of the struggles he's had in finding the fairway, we all know that Mickelson is the master of turning a poor tee shot into something special on the green. He didn't do that at the Masters, and his game suffered as a result.
At Merion, Mickelson won't be able to use his patented escape shots to his advantage on some of the holes with the rough spots mentioned above. He will, however, be able to take advantage of the shorter course and focus on using his irons, as mentioned by Chris Chaney of Yahoo! Sports.
He will, however, be able to take the driver out of his bag and focus on hitting his woods and irons in the fairway—technically not the driver. That being said, you almost have to take driving accuracy out of the picture for the golfers making the choice to leave it out of the bag.
He'll also have the distinction of seeking out the course pro and asking him for tips about how to play the course (via John Boruk):
Perhaps Phil Mickelson is tired of finishing 2nd at the US Open. He played 18 holes at Merion and then took Club Pro Scott Nye to dinner.— John Boruk (@JohnBorukCSN) June 4, 2013
There are a lot of factors at play here at Merion for Mickelson when it comes to projecting his score. On the one hand, a shorter course, a higher emphasis on irons, the fact that he's one of the best (statistical) putters on the tour, several top finishes this season and a history of success in the US Open are all calling cards for a strong opening round.
Which major will Mickelson win first?
On the other hand, his poor performances after those strong rounds and the fact that he'll be up against the clock in the form of a late flight (details of which can be found here, courtesy of ESPN's Bob Harig) all side with a struggle in Round 1 on Thursday.
Expect a little bit of both during the opening round.
Prediction: Six birdies, two bogeys, one double-bogey; two-under 68.
*All stats courtesy PGATour.com.
Follow Bleacher Report FC Ethan Grant (@DowntownEG) on Twitter.
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