Phil Mickelson’s chances to win this year’s U.S. Open and the career grand slam are over, and he knows it.
“It was a tough day to try to go low,” Phil Mickelson said about his third round at the 2014 U.S. Open. He wasn’t kidding.
There were only two rounds under par at Pinehurst No. 2. on Saturday, and Mickelson’s wasn’t among them. It was as though the USGA was more willing to let Martin Kaymer stiff-arm the competition than they were to let birdies slip through the scorecard cracks.
The reality of Kaymer’s low score for the first 36 holes and the disappointment of not being able to catch up began to set in. By the end of the day, his head was elsewhere.
“I feel like, long-term, I'm on the right track, and I'm excited about the next few years,” he added after posting a 72 to fall back to five-over. “I'll play a good solid round tomorrow, not really worry about the results and see if I can finish the year strong.”
Through three rounds, Mickelson hit 63 percent of greens in regulation, with 72 percent on the first two days, but a horrible 44 percent on Saturday.
“I'm excited about the fact that this year my driving, it took a whole different turn,” he explained about the positives. “The technology and the driver now for me is optimum. It's easy for me to hit. I feel like I have control with it, just like I do my irons. I've always felt like when I drive the ball well I'm tough to beat, because my iron play is usually pretty good. Today it wasn't.”
He averaged 64 percent of fairways hit for three rounds. The really telling part was his putting, and he knew it.
“I've been having trouble getting the putter to go to the target. It's been kind of a short follow-through,” he added. He said he took out some of his forward press allowing the shaft to be more vertical. “The putter head went to the target a little bit easier.”
His third round had just 28 putts, a good number, while in the second round he had 34 and three-putted four greens. That’s four shots just thrown away. He has had 93 putts through three rounds. The average number of putts in four rounds on the PGA Tour is 119.
“Given the way the first two days played, I think that you want to have a little bit more of a sterner test,” he said about the set up. “I think they probably could have put some of it in the first two days, where there were maybe some tougher pins. But it's tough to do that when you have 156 guys trying to get through and you could be playing back and forth on some of the greens and it could just take forever.”
Even though there is no mathematical chance for Mickelson to win the tournament, he has a goal for Sunday.
“If I play well—if I hit it better and make some putts, I think I can shoot four- or five-under par, end around even, finish second again!”
Kathy Bissell is a Golf Writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained first-hand or from official interview materials from the USGA, PGA Tour or PGA of America.