Phil Mickelson


Liguori: Phil Mickelson Downplays His Hunger For Career Grand Slam 

Lefty Will Try To End US Open Drought At Shinnecock

Ann Liguori
June 12, 2018 - 1:49 pm

Phil Mickelson stood Monday evening outside on the back terrace of a sprawling mansion in Southampton that overlooks the ocean, tasting lobster, oysters and a variety of delicious delectables.

It was the annual Rolex reception, and many of this week's U.S. Open players, including Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler, Adam Scott, Martin Kaymer and Paul Casey, were among the notables who gathered at the incredible venue on an evening that always remembers the great Arnold Palmer.

Mickelson was enjoying the social environment, shaking hands and engaging in conversation with all who approached him. He made sure to catch the name of each person who introduced himself or herself. He spoke of his love for Shinnecock Hills and the area, and how Shinnecock is one of his favorite courses.

Earlier in the day, Mickelson entered the media room for a news conference. Most of the top players are coming in Tuesday to speak to the press, but Mickelson preferred to get his news conference out of the way earlier. Most times, he answers questions after calling the reporter by his or her first name, remembering every person in the room that he’s met, sometimes just once before.

MORE: Liguori: Tradition-Rich Shinnecock Hills Should Provide Tough Test At US Open

On Monday night, he misheard the name of my significant other and said, "Gus, right?" "No, Scott," I corrected him. "Oh, I’m so sorry, Scott. Great to meet you!” Mickelson said. I smiled and told Scott that Mickelson would remember his name the next time the two connected. That quality of remembering names is a feat in itself, particularly since the golf superstar meets so many people on a daily basis. It’s almost as if he challenges himself in remembering people’s names like he would setting practice goals for himself on the links.

In addition to this unique quality, there’s no better or more engaging interview than Mickelson. He is rarely off. He’s not afraid to voice his opinion or call out someone or something that he doesn’t agree with. He loves the history of golf and the nuances of the game, and he enjoys talking about the sport.

And this week, as the soon-to-be 48-year-old -- his birthday is Saturday -- attempts to complete a career grand, he seems to be in a jovial mood, soaking up the beauty of the Hamptons and enjoying Shinnecock. He also has been practicing at Friar’s Head -- his favorite course of all-time, he says -- which is located on the North Shore of Long Island, just west of Riverhead and about 40 minutes away from Shinnecock.

Mickelson won the Masters in 2004, 2006, 2010; the British Open in 2013; and the PGA Championship in 2005. But the U.S. Open title still eludes him after competing in 26 of them.

“I mean, I really love the challenge, and I love that I have another opportunity to try and complete the career grand slam," Mickelson said. "My goal, though, is not to try to win on Thursday. My goal is to stay in it on Thursday, stay in it on Friday and have an opportunity for the weekend. So I’m not really thinking about winning right now. I’m thinking about getting in it for the weekend. But certainly, the final leg for me of completing the grand slam is this event.”

Mickelson is a big fan of New York. He told NBC's Mike Tirico that he wants to win for the New York fans because "we’ve experienced rollercoaster waves" together and the people in the Empire State have been "so good to me."

And, yes, Mickelson has put his fans and himself on a rollercoaster ride at these U.S. Opens for some time now. He has six runner-up finishes in the championship. Four of those have been in New York: second place in 2002 at Bethpage, second place in 2004 at Shinnecock, tied for second in in 2006 at Winged Foot and tied for second in 2009 at Bethpage.

In 2002, Mickelson finished three shots behind winner Tiger Woods. In 2004, Mickelson three-putted the 17th hole from 5 feet for double bogey to finish two shots behind winner Ratief Goosen. At 2006, Mickelson had a one-shot lead on the final hole, but his tee shot went way left on the 18th, and he finished with a double bogey to lose to Geoff Ogilvy. He ended up tying for second with Colin Montgomery and Jim Furyk. And in 2009, Mickelson bogeyed the 15th and 17th holes to finish tied for second with David Duval and Ricky Barnes.

Devastating results through the years for Lefty for sure. And whether a 48-year-old can win a U.S Open is a question for the skeptics. If anyone can do it, Mickelson can. His short game is brilliant, and that will be a huge factor on Shinnecock. He has played well on this course. He has the experience. Touch and feel are such a part of success here, and Mickelson is the master of that when he’s "on."

Whether or not he can create the magic required to prevail here is what his fans will be looking and hoping for.

“I don’t want to get ahead of myself,” Mickelson said. “And I don’t want to start thinking about results. I just want to go out and play a solid round on Thursday, given the conditions, and shoot a number that’s good relative to what the conditions of the course are and worry about trying to close it out on the weekends.”

One step at a time for the five-time major champion. He’ll prepare his way and manage the expectations on his own terms. And win or lose, many will be hanging on his last flop shot or putt or opinion, and will smile when he remembers your name.

Follow Ann on Twitter at @AnnLiguori