LOS ANGELES – For the third straight Sunday, a valiant back-nine charge came up just short for Phil Mickelson.
Mickelson began the final round of the Genesis Open five shots off the lead, but after a chip-in birdie on No. 12 he got within a shot of Bubba Watson. With the leaders a few holes behind him, he continued to press and his aggressive approaches into Nos. 15 and 16 both led to bogeys that effectively ended his chances to win for the first time since 2013.
Mickelson’s closing 3-under 68 ultimately left him in a tie for sixth, four shots behind Watson. It comes on the heels of a runner-up finish last week at Pebble Beach and a T-5 finish the week before that in Phoenix, marking the first time since 2007 that Mickelson has strung together three straight top-6 finishes.
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“My game’s on the upswing,” Mickelson said. “I’m playing well enough to compete week in and week out now, and now it’s just a matter of a shot here or there, the difference between winning and not, as opposed to kind of finding my game. I’m not searching anymore.”
Mickelson added that he has seen “significant” progress in both putting and driving, two areas of concern he addressed in the offseason. But as the season’s first major continues to draw near, he believes that turning top-10s into a victory is critical to his chances at a fourth green jacket.
“I think it will be important for me, if I want to go into Augusta with the expectation of winning again, that I win before then,” Mickelson said. “If it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen. But I think that that would be a big thing for momentum, because you need to perform under the gun, in the clutch, and play well enough to win a tournament before you expect to win a major.”