Phil Mickelson will make his 2015 PGA Tour debut at this week's Humana Challenge. Coming off a winless 2014, and at age 44, what should we expect from Mickelson this year? GolfChannel.com writers weigh in.
By RANDALL MELL
We should continue to expect the unexpected.
We should continue to expect the spectacular when we least expect it.
We should continue to expect bursts of excellence ... but we should expect to see less of all of the above.
With Mickelson coming off his first winless season in a decade, with his 45th birthday coming in June, it will be an upset if his best golf isn’t behind him.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t something special still to behold this year. In fact, Mickelson could reach the pinnacle of his career if he wins the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay to complete the career Grand Slam.
Don’t bet on it, though. Mickelson’s modus operandi is wowing us when we don’t expect it. So that probably means he completes the Grand Slam after we’ve all completely written him off, in a few years or so.
Still, Kenny Perry won seven times after turning 44, Vijay Singh four times after turning 44 and Steve Stricker three times after turning 44. Expect Mickelson to win again this year and compete with those numbers before he’s done.
By RYAN LAVNER
He’s another year older and his motivation might be waning, but I’d expect Phil Mickelson to produce a better 2015 than ’14 – if only because it couldn’t get much worse.
Peruse the stats, and no part of his game was particularly sharp. He was 138th in total driving. He was 108th in ball-striking. He was uncharacteristically poor from 50-125 yards (102nd) and 125-150 yards (156th). He was 50th in putting.
And yet, even in a down year, he nearly stole the PGA Championship.
Phil hasn’t played a stroke-play event since he was bounced early from the FedEx Cup playoffs, which is plenty of time to examine what went wrong. Improved driving and wedge play are a priority, and early reports from his camp are that he’s addressed those issues and even improved his physical conditioning.
Mickelson turns 45 in June, but it’d be a surprise if he didn’t win an event this season and contend in at least one major.
By WILL GRAY
Phil Mickelson will get back into the winner’s circle in 2015, but his week-to-week struggles are hardly a thing of the past.
Mickelson’s goals remain tied to the majors, specifically the U.S. Open, but as he showed in 2014 sometimes the game doesn’t always peak on command. The hardships of age have begun to take their toll on Mickelson, now 44, and he isn’t getting any younger.
His confidence remains intact, and his short game is still one of the best in the business. Those skills alone are enough to turn bad weeks into decent ones, and good weeks into potentially great ones. But consistency has always been an issue with Mickelson, and that will continue in 2015, which will become his fourth straight season with at least three missed cuts.
He’ll end the victory drought at some point this year, but it might be time to recalibrate our expectations for an aging superstar.
By REX HOGGARD
As a general rule 44-year-old professional golfers don’t have terribly high expectations.
Although the twilight is still at bay, there are many more tournaments behind a forty-something than there are ahead, but in the case of Phil Mickelson it would be foolish to believe he plans to sail quietly into his golden years.
Despite enduring his worst year as a professional last season – 21 events, no wins and just a single top-10 finish (PGA Championship) – Lefty embraced this offseason like a player half his age.
From Mickelson’s swing coach Butch Harmon to his trainer Sean Cochran, they will tell you their man is healthier and more motivated than he has been in years in part because of that pedestrian card in 2014 and partly because he knows the good night of retirement is calling.
He may not be able to finally clear that U.S. Open hurdle that has eluded him his entire career, he may not even add to his major total, but when it comes to the game’s most high-profile southpaw, expectations should not dovetail with his age.
Mickelson also has history on his side. The last time he failed to win a Tour event in a single year (2003) he rebounded by winning his first major (2004 Masters).