Mickelson eyes Career Grand Slam at Pebble Beach

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PEBBLE BEACH, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 11: Phil Mickelson of the United States walks up the 18th hole during the continuation of the final round of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am at Pebble Beach Golf Links on February 11, 2019 in Pebble Beach, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

As father time ticks away, this week’s U.S. Open from Pebble Beach could be the last real opportunity for five-time major champion Phil Mickelson to complete the coveted grand slam of golf. The four-time All-American tees it up, alongside 155 other top players in the world, in his home state of California this Thursday.

Three times in his 27-year professional career the legend known as ‘Lefty’ has donned the green jacket as Masters Champion (2004, 2006, 2010). Add a PGA Championship in 2005 and The Open Championship in 2013 and just one more piece of the puzzle remains. Placing that last piece of the puzzle is easier said than done with a hard-hitting group of top contenders including Tiger Woods, Brooks Koepka and Rory McIlroy surrounding you.

Mickelson’s U.S. Open History

In 27 starts at the U.S. Open, Mickelson has yet to take home the trophy despite making the cut a remarkable 89-percent of the time (24 of 27 made cuts). Almost inconceivably, he has finished in the top-10 on 10 separate occasions. Six of those top-10 finishes saw Mickelson fall just short of the title in the runner-up position.

Throughout his career, Mickelson has played a U.S. Open at Pebble Beach three different years. Starting in 1992 with a missed cut, he has improved every outing since. In 2000 he found himself in a tie for 16th while 2010 ‘Lefty’ took charge with a tie for 4th.

With six-second place finishes including Pinehurst (1999), Bethpage Black (2002, 2009), Shinnecock (2004), Winged Foot (2006) and Merion (2013), Mickelson has been on the cusp but has never been able to make that final leap into the winner’s circle.

Winged Foot Golf Club’s West Course, the site of Mickelson’s 2006 runner-up finish, will be the host site next year for the 2020 U.S. Open. Despite his past success, the 14-year difference on Mickelson’s abilities may put the 7,264-yard length of Winged Foot out of reach for what will be a 50-year old Phil Mickelson.

Despite being 17th in driving distance this season, Mickelson still comes in 78th in strokes gained tee-to-green and 100th in strokes gained off-the-tee. While this year’s U.S. Open may not be a bomber’s paradise, keeping steady off the tee is an essential aspect for any victor to have in his bag. Luckily for Phil, he more than knows his way around the sprawling California oasis known as Pebble Beach.

Familiarity factor at Pebble Beach

An illustrious career has yielded Mickelson 44 PGA Tour victories. Five of which have come at none other than Pebble Beach Golf Links. While certainly a tale of two courses from the time-honored Pebble Beach Pro-Am to the USGA’s treacherous U.S. Open set up, the familiarity factor cannot be underestimated.

Four of his five Pebble Beach Pro-Am victories have come by a margin of two strokes or greater. Just this past February, Mickelson recorded his latest PGA Tour victory at this very course. With a 7-under final round of 65, the 12-time Ryder Cup participant bested England’s Paul Casey by three strokes.

Suffice to say Mickelson has plenty of fans cheering him on come Sunday, which ironically enough will be his 49th birthday. One such fan is the widely known, and respected, Jim Nantz who predicted Mickelson to win this year’s U.S. Open.

Back in January when he spoke with Golf Channel, Nantz stated “I think [Phil]’s gonna win at Pebble… I want to put that on the record right now. I think Phil is going to win the U.S. Open.”  With the storyline seemingly writing itself, fast forward nearly six months and Mickelson is hitting a hole-in-one at Nantz’s backyard replica of Pebble Beach’s par-3 7th hole.

Course history, celebrity endorsements, and backyard aces aside, while Mickelson may not be the best off the tee his short game precision is well documented. The shorter the club the better for ‘Lefty’ and with the reports of thick rough, small greens, and pinpoint placement with your wedges a near unanimous necessity, Mickelson already has a leg up on the competition.

At 49-years young by weeks end, Mickelson will rely on his precision, short game success, and valuable history at Pebble Beach to become the sixth golfer to complete the career grand slam in what may be Lefty’s best opportunity remaining to check off one more legendary feat in an already storied career.

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