The US Open will be a rescue mission for Phil Mickelson.
There will undoubtedly be errant drives, wayward iron shots, and putts that fall short for the veteran Lefty, but how he responds, and ultimately rescues himself, in these situations will determine if he wins or loses the US Open.
If you think back to this year's Masters, Mickelson couldn't buy a fairway off the tee. His driver was atrocious and yet he continued to hit it in search of some shred of accuracy. He continued to find his ball buried in the trees or wood chips, forcing him to chip out to the fairway. From there, however, he could, and often did, recover with remarkable shots onto the green and clutch putts. But if you count those shots—that often amounts to par.
Saving par will not cut it, Phil.
Here are the two most important ways Mickelson can win the US Open and finally shake his hapless history of five runner-up finishes in this major.
First, he needs to hit 75-85 percent of the fairways. Phil currently clobbers the ball 297-yards off the tee on average, good for 18th in Driving Distance on Tour. But he ranks 163rd in Driving Accuracy—that is 53.17 percent of the fairways. That is awful, but also a sign of how talented the other elements of his game are that allow him to contend (ranked ninth in Scoring Average, 70.1). Hitting fairways will not only allow him to play aggressive iron shots, but it also provides with a sense of confidence and momentum immediately after striking his tee shot.
Second, Mickelson must find a rhythm on the greens at Congressional. Now he doesn’t need to sink every putt he approaches, but when he’s within striking distance, such as a birdie putt inside ten feet, Mickelson will have to bare down and convert as often as he can. Managing the speed of the greens will provide him with another added dose of confidence, which will become increasingly crucial as the rounds go by and other players begin to surge.
With accuracy and steady putting, Mickelson can conquer his first US Open.