Phil Mickelson has failed to maintain the momentum generated by his runner-up finish at the 2014 PGA Championship at the dawn of the FedEx Cup playoffs.
The Hall of Famer and gallery favorite won't be around for the final 18 holes at The Barclays at Ridgewood Country Club in Paramus, New Jersey. Mickelson opened with lackluster scores of 71 and 72 before unraveling with a four-over 75 on Saturday, missing the secondary cut in the postseason opener.
Per ESPN.com's Bob Harig, few golfers were ousted on Saturday, but the field was trimmed a bit since there were more than 78 players after the initial, standard cut on Friday.
Just one player, Martin Flores, stood between Mickelson and dead last in the field, as he missed the 54-hole cut by four strokes at five over par overall.
Harig of ESPN highlighted just one of Mickelson's missteps in an adventurous day:
Check out the video of Mickelson's shot into the hospitality area—something he did in the second round, too:
Golf Channel's Jason Sobel documented what Mickelson said about one of his lone highlights of the day, when he hit a great recovery shot and nearly birdied:
Adventure might as well be Mickelson's middle name. His nickname is Phil the Thrill because of his exciting style of golf. During the third round at The Barclays, too many wayward shots left Mickelson in the slumping form that's defined the majority of his season.
This early exit at the opening FedEx Cup playoff event comes on the heels of a couple of flashes of brilliance. Mickelson fired an eight-under 62 in the final round of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, backing it up with a thrilling PGA Championship finish at Valhalla that saw him fall short to Rory McIlroy by one stroke.
Justin Ray of Golf Channel noted how it was yet another close call for Mickelson at a major:
Harig reported what Mickelson had to say after the PGA. He expressed optimism about where his game was headed despite falling short but did acknowledge there was work ahead:
Regardless of how I played this week, I know that I've got to address some things these next three or four months. And I think that the next four or five years, I really want to make special, and then we'll see. I feel like I'm a lot closer to great play than what this year showed, and this is just a little glimpse of what I feel I can do and I'll see if I can work on it some. I'm optimistic that I'll be able to address these issues.
That makes this Barclays letdown all the more perplexing and frustrating for Mickelson, who was dumbfounded following Saturday's debacle. He even hinted he might not play at next week's Deutsche Bank Championship, via the New York Daily News' Hank Gola:
I don’t know. I’ve got four or five days off here with the late start. We’ll see when I get back home,” he said. “I’m frustrated with my game, but I love playing in Boston (where he won the 2007 Deutsche Bank), I love the golf course and I love Cherry Hills, too. We’ve got some great tournaments, but I’m not playing very inspired golf right now.
Lefty's year has not panned out quite the way he hoped after winning The Open Championship in 2013 and pulling within one leg of the career Grand Slam.
Part of what has plagued Mickelson in 2013-14 is his putting. He ranked in the top 10 in strokes gained putting in each of the previous two campaigns, yet he entered The Barclays in 47th even with his excellent form at the year's final major, per PGATour.com.
The problem is that Mickelson hasn't been able to piece all aspects of his game together for four rounds. His sensational short game has only been able to bail him out so many times. It's catching up to him now.
A bid to capture the career Grand Slam at the U.S. Open fell well short when he tied for 28th—a disappointing effort at Pinehurst, where he finished second in 1999.
Immense talent, gifted touch around the greens and a high-risk, high-reward style have aided Mickelson's golf conquests. To scrap most of the traditional course management rules on the biggest possible stages in golf takes an indefatigable amount of confidence and faith in one's own abilities under massive pressure.
Both of those are traits Mickelson has exhibited time and again, but he struggled to do so amid two difficult rounds at Ridgewood.
His radiant, unwaveringly positive perspective has to be pushed to its breaking point at this juncture of the year. Lefty is too gifted and accomplished to have had such an underwhelming year. Combine this discouraging setback with his PGA Championship heartbreak, and it's not a good concoction.
Not one to make excuses—and there aren't any valid ones to be made at the moment—Mickelson has to figure something out.
The good news is that he enters next week's Deutsche Bank Championship at TPC Boston having won there in 2007. However, the past two champions are Rory McIlroy and Henrik Stenson. They have played as good as anyone this summer, although Stenson struggled to a 77 on Saturday.
All that really separates the men from the boys at this level of competitive golf is mental fortitude. Mickelson has proved to have plenty of that over his prolific career. Let's see if he can dig deep, rediscover some of his spectacular form and produce more magic beyond a forgettable Barclays.
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