Updated 5:05 p.m
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – A return to a place where he’s had considerable success turned into a week to forget for Phil Mickelson.
Mickelson played his first 30 holes of the PGA Championship without making a single birdie, and after rounds of 79-74 will miss the cut by several shots. Thursday’s opener marked the highest round of Mickelson’s PGA Championship career, and this will be the first time he sits out the weekend since missing the cut at Riviera in 1995.
Mickelson also missed the cut last month at The Open, and this is the second time in as many years that he has missed back-to-back cuts in majors.
“These last couple tournaments, the British and here, have been atrocious,” Mickelson said.
The 47-year-old downplayed his recent struggles as the sign of a larger slump, and he also didn’t blame his change in caddie after he and Jim “Bones” Mackay amicably ended a 25-year partnership in June.
“I don’t know how that would really affect the shots that I’ve been hitting,” he said. “I don’t know how that would play into it.”
Mickelson stood little chance of making the cut after his disastrous opener at Quail Hollow Club, but his struggles continued with bogeys on three of his first seven holes to start the second round. According to Lefty, the root of the issue lies with his mental focus, not his physical execution.
“It’s not like I’m hitting the ball crooked, I’m just hitting it in the wrong spots, and I’m just not really controlling my thought process, where I want the ball to go,” he said. “I’m not real focused out there, and I’m having a tough time visualizing the shot. I’m having a tough time controlling my thoughts and not letting it wander to what I don’t want to have happen.”
Mickelson will take next week off before teeing it up in each of the first two playoff events. He entered the week 17th in the U.S. Presidents Cup standings, and after making every American team since 1993, he's looking to either earn one of 10 automatic spots on the team or receive one of Steve Stricker’s two captain’s picks.
“I would love to be on it, but the way I’m playing – I’ve got to play better,” Mickelson said. “If I can play well in those (playoff events), I have a chance to get on the team on my own. And if I play well in them and I don’t make it, I have a chance to be a pick. But I’ve got to play well in them is the thing.”
The cutoff for automatic qualifying on the U.S. side is Sept. 4. Needless to say, Mickelson's streak of 22 consecutive team competitions is in jeopardy.
“He told me he wants to be on this team more than anything,” Stricker said Friday. “I would love to see him on the team. But just like anybody else, I’ve got to see who is playing well at the time. I know he’s struggling a little bit right now, but I told him I would like to see him play well from here on out to show me something basically. That doesn’t sound right coming from a guy like me talking to Phil. But that’s basically what I said. Show me that you are playing good at the end of the year, because I would love to have him on the team.”
Making the subplot even juicier is that Stricker said he would consult with his assistant captains before any roster decision. One of his assistants is Mickelson’s longtime rival, Tiger Woods.
“We need the best guys playing the best at the end of the year going forward,” Stricker said. “That’s what we’re going to be looking at. It’s going to be a team decision with all the assistant captains.”