PINEHURST, N.C. – Phil Mickelson had barely hoisted the claret jug last July when he declared that his goal was not just to win the U.S. Open and become the sixth player to complete the career grand slam, but that he wanted to do so here, at Pinehurst, where all of his Open heartbreak began 15 years ago.
Now that the 114th U.S. Open is upon us, well, Mickelson isn’t deflating any of his own pre-tournament hype.
“I’m not going to put that pressure on myself and say that this is the only week or only opportunity,” he said Tuesday, “but it’s probably the best opportunity, because the golf course is so short-game oriented. I think that I’ll have a number of great opportunities in the future years, but this is certainly as good a chance as I’ll have.”
It’s reasonable to suggest that Mickelson is putting undue pressure on himself this week. The U.S. Open is already the most exacting test in golf, each shot requires – no, demands – a player’s full attention, and Lefty admitted that it’s “only natural” that he would daydream about what a victory would feel like.
“If I get ahead of myself,” he said, “I won’t have a chance.”
Certainly, this week’s Open represents a stark change for Mickelson, who arrived at last year’s British Open having mustered just a pair of top 10s at the year’s third major, only to throw up a stunning final-round 66 to steal the title.
“I tend to do something, play better, when nobody really expects it and I just kind of come out of nowhere and know that I can do it and not really have to answer questions about it,” he said. “So these are all challenges that I’m facing this week, but I’m also enjoying it and I love being here.”