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Punch Shot: How many career majors will Phil win?

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In light of Phil Mickelson's recent triumph at the 142nd Open Championship giving him his fifth major, our writers debate how many he will finish with in his career.


By JAY COFFIN

Phil Mickelson will end his career with six major championships.

Hope I’m wrong. Hope he wins more.

Lefty will win another Masters before his career is complete and it’ll give him as many green jackets as Tiger Woods. In an era dominated by these two men it’d only be fitting for Mickelson to end his career even with Woods in at least one category.

A U.S. Open victory is a toss up. I wrote this last month following Mickelson’s loss at Merion: If the golf gods had a heart, they’d allow Phil Mickelson to win the U.S. Open next year at Pinehurst, the place where he first finished second (1999) in the epic finish against Payne Stewart. Then again, if the golf gods had a heart, Mickelson would already have collected at least one Open crown.

Still feel the same way. It’d be great for Mickelson to win the career Grand Slam, something nine years ago seemed impossible because he had won precisely zero majors. But Lefty has come a long way in a short time, and is playing some of the best golf in his career. Almost nothing he does from now until the end of his PGA Tour career would surprise me.

He could win the PGA Championship in three weeks.


By REX HOGGARD

Phil Mickelson will win six majors because he’s motivated, but it doesn’t seem likely he will add to his Grand Slam collection after that. It won’t be a lack of talent that strands him at a half dozen, it will be missing inspiration.

Lefty will hit a wall when he finally wins the U.S. Open – quite likely next June when the national championship returns to Pinehurst, site of his first heartbreak. The victory, when and wherever it happens, will move Mickelson into rare air, making him the sixth player to claim the career Grand Slam.

It’s hard to imagine Mickelson, whose focus has been known to waiver, summiting the ultimate major mountain only to start a trip up the next peak.

“If I’m able to win the U.S. Open and complete the career Grand Slam, I think that that’s a sign of the complete, great player,” he said on Sunday following his victory at the Open Championship, the one major that had a “round peg in a square hole” feel to it for Lefty.

Over time Mickelson learned to play links golf, just as it stands to reason that after six runner-up finishes at the U.S. Open he’d be prepared to secure the last piece to his major puzzle. Beyond that, however, all bets are off.


By RYAN LAVNER

Seven.

Two more? Why not? If he bags Nos. 6 and 7, it would mean only six golfers in history would have more major hardware than Lefty. But hey, in the wake of his game-changing victory at Muirfield, the possibilities are limitless.

In coming years, his flexibility will decrease, and so will his distance. But at 43 – an age when most pros’ strokes begin to betray them – Phil is putting better than he ever has, eliminating what had appeared to be an early onset of the yips. That alone means he’ll be a factor in every major he enters, provided he’s fit and healthy.

But his best chances to win another major (and complete the career grand slam) are at next year’s U.S. Open at Pinehurst, where all of his national-championship heartbreak began in ’99. Light rough and sloping greens? You can bet Lefty will be a factor there. Same at the Masters, his favorite tournament of the year, where he shows up each April believing he can win. That won’t change deep into his late 40s, and his record there – only one finish outside the top 30 since 1997 – suggests that even a slightly diminished long game could still produce a fourth green jacket. And, yes, even more majors.


By JASON SOBEL

I’ll say Phil Mickelson finishes his career with six major titles, but all I really know is that the final number will be at least five and less than 18. At least, I’m pretty sure about that last part.

Trying to predict anything about Mickelson’s career has always been an exercise in futility. As if we needed further evidence, let’s see a show of hands for which of you had ever predicted he’d win an Open Championship. OK, now put your hands down and extinguish the flames on your pants.

At 43, he isn’t showing any signs of breaking down anytime soon, so it’s hard to believe that he won’t be seriously in the mix for at least another half-decade, giving him 21 more major starts, including the upcoming PGA Championship.

I’m already on record in a Punch Shot from last month saying that I didn’t think he would ever win a U.S. Open, a tournament at which he’s been snakebitten to the tune of a half-dozen runner-up results. I’d gladly be wrong about that one if it means watching history unfold – and it would: Mickelson would become the sixth player to achieve the career Grand Slam if he finally breaks through at the year’s second major.

I’ll sort of compromise – with myself, if not anyone else – and say that Mickelson wins one more major to tie Lee Trevino and Nick Faldo. But the truth is none of us ever know what to expect from him. That won’t change anytime soon.


By RANDALL MELL

Phil Mickelson is predictable only in his unpredictability.

What will Phil do next? How about win another Masters and complete the career Grand Slam with a U.S. Open breakthrough? With seven major championship titles, he would equal the totals Arnold Palmer, Sam Snead and Gene Sarazen ended their careers with.

It’s total guesswork, but there would be something fitting about Mickelson equaling Palmer’s major championship work. The go-for-broke mentality that marked so much of Mickelson’s career is an echo from Palmer’s day. So is the way Mickelson goes out of his way to connect with his fans.