Mickelson trending in the right direction
October 09, 2017
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
Shot of the Day
Phil Mickelson's approach out of the dirt is the Shot of the Day
NAPA, Calif. – Phil Mickelson didn’t end his drought Sunday as he had hoped. But he likes the direction he’s heading – both with his golf game and the next tournament on his schedule. He hopes the confluence of those two things will lead to career win No. 43.
Mickelson shot a 2-under 70 in the final round of the Safeway Open to finish at 12 under, three strokes behind winner Brendan Steele. His tie for third is his best result since The Open in 2016 when he finished second in a Sunday duel against Henrik Stenson, and continues his upward trend – his last 12 rounds on TOUR have been at par-or-better.
He’ll now take two weeks off, then play the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions in China. Having won twice at Sheshan Golf Club, Mickelson certainly has reason to hope for a third win. If it happens, it would end the 91-start drought since his last victory on TOUR, The Open in 2013.
“I’m going to keep giving myself good chances, and it will happen,” Mickelson said. “I get on a course like Sheshan where I’m very comfortable. I know the greens. I know the course well. I think I’ll have a good week there.”
He almost had a great week at Silverado. Mickelson posted 23 birdies – tying Chesson Hadley for most of any player this week – and entered the final round four shots off the lead. He had hoped to get off to a fast start and apply pressure on the leaders, including 54-hole leader Tyler Duncan.
Sunday’s tough scoring conditions prevented anybody from going low, but Mickelson was still in the mix after his birdie at the par-5 16th. He figured if he could birdie the next two holes, he might have a shot to catch eventual champ Brendan Steele. But he missed the fairway on the par-4 17th to the left, leaving him with a difficult shot over a tall redwood that guards the left side of the green. His approach found the bunker, and he failed to save par.
Missing fairways was the only troublesome element for Mickelson’s week – at least from a statistical perspective. He hit just 15 of 56 fairways – only 3 of 14 on Sunday – and that tied for 74th in the field.
“He’s very close; he’s been playing really well,” Steele said. “I think the only thing that ever holds him back is just missing a few fairways here and there. If he hits a few more fairways, then he’s probably not far off at all.”
But from Mickelson’s perspective, the missed fairways should not be considered cause for alarm.
“This is a very skewed golf course to judge fairways hit,” Mickelson said. “I hit three beautiful drives on 18; none of them found the fairway. The fairway’s 13 yards wide. I paced it.
“So on a normal TOUR course, I would have hit 10, 11 fairways today. I drove it fairly well. But out here, I think, is a way to kind of protect that, they move the fairways in so that they’re about half what they normally are.”
Overall, Mickelson said he enjoyed the challenging conditions at Silverado. He also enjoyed the heat of a back-nine battle.
“It was fun to be in the mix. It was fun to have a chance,” he said.
He expects there will be many more. So does Steele.
“I don’t see any reason why he can’t be competitive for a really long time,” the two-time Safeway Open champ said. “I’ve always said I think Phil can win at Augusta well into his mid- to late-50s. He just knows the course so well. He has such an excitement for getting there and has just the right game for it, so I don’t see him slowing down anytime soon.”
But before Augusta, there is China in three weeks. Might be time to start winning again.