Hes not a kid anymore ' his 31st birthday is Saturday. But as No. 31 comes closer, one wonders what has happened. Last year he seemingly was one of the only ones who had no fear of Tiger Woods. This year, he has lost to a number of guys who arent named Woods.
There are two ways to look at his Sunday setbacks, of course. One is that he has become one of those tormented souls known as a choker. The other is that he has played some incredible golf to get into a position to win so often. Mickelson likes to think of it as the second way.
Its very encouraging to me that Ive been able to get it contention week-in and week-out, he said after coming in this week from a U.S. Open practice round. And what that does is it gives me the confidence that heading into this week, its not hit-or-miss.
I know that if I play well, if I play smart and make good decisions and manage my game, I dont need to have anything extraordinary to happen for me to get in contention over the weekend. Thats a great confidence-builder, and (is the reason why) Ive had a number of opportunities.
Mickelson has 18 wins during a pro career, which isnt yet 10 years old. He hasnt been known as a man who cant close a victory until this year. Included in his runner-up finishes is a loss to Woods at Bay Hill, but that one wasnt exactly because of choking. He had a great round on Sunday, and only Woods caroms on 16 and 18 off the gallery beat him.
This tournament will be different from the other tournaments in the past because I wont have to go out and still shoot 67 or 68 to maintain the lead, he said. Ill be able to keep it around par and it should be good enough.
Mickelson doesnt own any major championships in his 18 victories, though he has finished second in the 99 Open, third in the 96 Masters, and third in the 94 PGA. He has always played aggressively, and sometimes the aggressiveness has paid handsomely; sometimes it has been costly.
Ive come to the realization that I cant change my approach to the game, said Mickelson. I dont enjoy playing conservative. And I have not won tournaments playing conservative. Ive never played conservative.
So to change my style would be wrong. It would really be putting me at a disadvantage. To make a few more intelligent decisions or less risky shots - that I wouldnt necessarily call conservative.
I would just call making birdie from 30 feet, as opposed to five feet, (is aggressive); I will certainly approach certain pins, but it will still be aggressive. Ill still be thinking birdie, and still Ill be able to shoot some low scores.