With the exception of The Masters, Phil Mickelson has had more success in his career at the PGA Championship than any other Grand Slam event. He won the tournament in 2005 and finished in the top 10 seven other times.
However, it's been a struggle for Lefty in recent years at the PGA Championship and this season hasn't been especially kind to him. Mickelson has finished outside the top 10 here each of the last five years and had the second-worst finish of his career at this event last year with a tie for 72nd.
Golf is nothing if not a fickle game, so Mickelson can salvage his season with a strong performance this weekend at Valhalla Golf Club. Here's a look at how he has performed, complete with a look at the leaderboard, his scorecard and analysis.
Day 1 Recap
Mickelson, who started on the back nine in a group with Tiger Woods and Padraig Harrington, seemed like he was in line for a long day on Thursday when his first shot on No. 10 went way left of the fairway. However, a strong back nine saved his round and moved him within shouting distance of Lee Westwood and Kevin Chappell.
He finished the day at two-under 69, four strokes off the leaders.
Following the round Mickelson spoke about his mindset with Kyle Porter of CBS Sports and KMPG Mickelson):
Phil Mickelson: "I'm nervous! It's been a while since I've been at this point where I feel like my game is ready."— Kyle Porter (@KylePorterCBS) August 7, 2014
Lefty on starting +2 thru 8: "I knew my game was still there. I wasn't worried. I just had to make some confident swings." #PGAChamp— KPMG Mickelson (@MickelsonHat) August 7, 2014
This has been a recurring pattern for Mickelson all season, though. He has always been a risk-taker, which is part of his appeal, but in the past it has worked to his advantage. Now, with age catching up to him, that advantageous spirit gets him in trouble.
Lefty has been all over the place in 2014 with good rounds and poor rounds, often in the same tournament. He did find some momentum in the Bridgestone Invitational with a 62 in the final round that provided some optimism for Valhalla.
The course also set up well for Mickelson to have a big weekend. He loves to hit the driver as much as anyone, averaging 292.5 yards off the tee this season, and at 7,458 yards, the course is the longest par-71 in PGA Championship history, according to Tim Sullivan of The Courier-Journal.
Mickelson even said before the event started that players long off the tee with some finesse are going to do well this weekend, via golf writer Neil Sagebiel on Twitter:
“I feel like the guys who hit the ball high and soft have a distinct advantage (at Valhalla) ..." -- Phil Mickelson— Neil Sagebiel (@armchairgolfer) August 7, 2014
The second part of Mickelson's statement could be problematic for him, since soft hasn't been a part of his game. He did appear to figure some things out after making his third bogey on No. 17 by finishing the round with four birdies over the last 10 holes to get under par.
In addition to a solid first round, Mickelson can take comfort knowing that he bested Tiger in a head-to-head battle again. Mark Cannizarro of the New York Post tweeted that this is actually becoming old hat for Lefty:
Phil Mickelson just finished 2-under to @TigerWoods 3-over. Since '07, Mickelson has 9-5-1 head-to-head record vs. TW when paired together.— NYPost_Cannizzaro (@MarkCannizzaro) August 7, 2014
The key for Mickelson the rest of this weekend will be learning from what he did on his last nine holes. He found a groove before things got out of hand, but things were close to falling apart before then.
If you are looking at patterns, Saturday and Sunday are the days Mickelson has made noise recently. He has shot 71-68-69-62 in the last two rounds of his last two events. Friday is the litmus test that will determine if Lefty is a real contender or a pretender.
Based on how things ended Thursday, the pendulum is swinging toward the contender side.
Day 2 Recap
Mickelson’s playing partner Woods may have completely fell apart and missed the cut, but Lefty turned in an impressive four-under 67 Friday. It moved his scored to six-under par for the tournament and within three strokes of leader Rory McIlroy.
Writer Rick Reilly seemed to think that Mickelson still has a chance to win this thing, while Golf Central pointed out that there is certainly some precedent in place for that possibility:
Philhalla? Mickelson only 3 back w/ 36 to go. #PGAChampionship— Rick Reilly (@ReillyRick) August 8, 2014
Mickelson went out with a bang when he eagled the 18th hole to bring himself within shouting distance of the top of the leaderboard, but it was an eight-hole stretch from No. 7 to No. 14 that turned the most heads.
Mickelson birdied No. 7, birdied No. 9, birdied No. 10 and birdied No. 14 without recording a single bogey. Gene Wojciechowski of ESPN was impressed:
Mickelson wasn't kidding when he said yesterday that he finally felt ready to win a tournament. He's at 5-under, four behind McIlroy.— Gene Wojciechowski (@GenoEspn) August 8, 2014
It wasn’t as if Mickelson was hitting every fairway during that streak either. Bob Harig of ESPN compared Mickelson’s play with that of Woods, which highlighted just how great Lefty was playing closer to the green:
For what it's worth... Tiger has hit only 8 fairways today (+4). Phil has hit only.... 8 fairways (-2)— Bob Harig (@BobHarig) August 8, 2014
The PGA Tour captured what was Mickelson’s signature moment of the round outside of the closing eagle:
Mickelson takes more momentum into the weekend than arguably any other golfer this side of McIlroy or Jason Day. If he continues to perform well with his putter, a run at a PGA Championship is far from out of the question.
Day 3 Recap
Thanks to a strong finish on the back nine, Mickelson shot a stellar 67 and now stands at 10-under after three days of play at Valhalla Golf Club.
PGA Tour announced Mickelson's arrival on the course:
Phil Mickelson is on the course and his opening tee shot was a 298-yarder that split the fairway. Follow along: http://t.co/L8kABUNgZ8— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) August 9, 2014
He was steady on the front nine, notching birdies on the No. 4 and No. 7 holes. His playing partner, Bernd Wiesberger, was doing a fine job of managing the course as well, adding to the pressure on Mickelson.
He lost his composure a bit at the start of the back nine, notching bogeys on holes No. 10 and 11.
Just when Mickelson looked like he might fall far behind a crowded field featuring a wealth of strong performances, ol' Lefty conjured up some magic and notched three straight birdies, starting with the No. 14 hole.
Just like that, he was right back in the thick of things, per Golf Central:
Mickelson then saved par on the No. 17 hole and finished with a flourish, scoring a birdie on the No. 18 hole to finish at four-under for the day.
GolfChannel.com's Jay Coffin had high praise for Lefty's performance on Saturday:
Phil Mickelson rarely disappoints. Dude puts on a show like no other. #PGAChamp— Jay Coffin (@JayCoffinGC) August 9, 2014
Jason Sobel, also of GolfChannel.com, could hardly believe Mickelson's statement on his improved play:
This week's sign of the apocalypse: Phil Mickelson attributes his improved play to more patience.— Jason Sobel (@JasonSobelGC) August 9, 2014
With so many players crowded at the top heading into the final round, it should make for quite the fantastic finish, definitely worthy of a major championship. Mickelson should feel great about the way he finished at Valhalla on Saturday, which bodes well for his continued excellence on the final day.
If there is any golfer capable of taking the mounting pressure in stride and navigating his way through a challenging course, it's Lefty.
Day 4 Recap
Mickelson took Valhalla by storm on Sunday, looking like the Lefty of old. He remained in full control off the tee, and even when his approach shots went awry, his phenomenal short game kept his scorecard clean—for a while anyway.
A disastrous bogey at the par-four 16th proved to be his undoing, as he just couldn't keep pace with world No. 1 Rory Mcilroy. Here's a look at Mickelson's tally for the day:
Lefty began the day quickly, recording a birdie at the par-four first thanks to his trusty flat stick, rolling in a 29-footer with ease. After birdies at three and seven, another at the par-four ninth finally gave him a share of the lead, noted by PGA Tour's Twitter account:
Phil Mickelson just knocked in a 10-footer for birdie at No. 9. He's now tied for the lead with Fowler and Stenson. pic.twitter.com/sIkbF0WR70— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) August 10, 2014
Mickelson made the turn at four under on the day, and quickly moved to five under after a birdie at the par-three 11th. However, it was another putt that kept him in contention just one hole later.
In the face of adversity, Lefty drained a 28-footer to save par at the par-four 12th. Here's a look, via PGA.com:
McIlroy had the best view in the house during Mickelson's roll, courtesy of Kyle Porter of CBS Sports:
This is your photo of the tournament - pic.twitter.com/PoVdT7E1Xd— Kyle Porter (@KylePorterCBS) August 10, 2014
Unfortunately, things would take a turn for the worse shortly after. Mickelson would record his only bogey of his round which would prove to be the difference. finishing in second place by one stroke.
After struggling earlier in the year, Mickelson is finally looking like he's reclaimed his form, and that certainly bodes well for the American's Ryder Cup team this year. He shared his thoughts during a press conference, via the KPMG official Twitter account:
"I feel like I'm a lot closer to great play than I've showed this year. This is just a glimpse of what I know I can do." - PM #PGAChamp— KPMG Mickelson (@MickelsonHat) August 11, 2014
Mickelson was also encouraged by his play enough to discuss his future on the PGA Tour:
"I feel like if I'm able to stay healthy and sharpen the areas of my game, I should have 4-5 good years that I really want to focus on." -PM— KPMG Mickelson (@MickelsonHat) August 11, 2014
While this second-place finish may be bittersweet for Lefty, he played some inspired golf and showed why he is one of the world's most dominant golfers once more.
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