Phil Mickelson has often been the bridesmaid but never the bride at the U.S. Open.
The five-time major champion has six times finished runner-up at the U.S. Open, and it continues to stand in the way of his pursuit of a career grand slam. Not only has Mickelson failed to win a U.S. Open, he’s suffered heartbreak at every turn.
Despite his rough times at this event, he’s looking forward to this year’s venue.
“This is certainly my favorite — one of my favorite courses,” Mickelson said of Shinnecock Hills during his press conference. “It’s the best setup, in my opinion, that we’ve seen, and the reason I say that is all areas of your game are being tested. There are some birdie holes. There’s some really hard pars. There’s some fairways that are easy to hit, fairways that are tough to hit.”
Length off the tee is usually a major bonus at U.S. Opens, but Mickelson believes short game could determine the winner this week.
“The chipping and short game around the greens are going to be a huge factor this week,” Mickelson said. “The challenge of the greens being extended and all the contours will continue to take balls further from the hole. You end up in fairway and have a shot, albeit a difficult one.
“I feel like your short game’s going to be challenged. Putting will be challenged, as well as ball striking, irons, driver. I feel as though the luck of a course has been taken out as much as possible to where skill is the primary factor. I think we’re going to have a great leaderboard and a great tournament.”
While Mickelson finished second here in 2004, and desperately wants a U.S. Open title, he’s just focused on the first round right now.
“I love the challenge. I mean, I really love the challenge, and I love that I have another opportunity to try and complete the career grand slam,” he said. “My goal, though, is not to try to win on Thursday. My goal is to stay in it Thursday, stay in it 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 believes the U.S. Open should provide players with a unique test, but doesn’t want the USGA to overdo it and make the course gimmicky.
“I think it’s a very difficult job to find the line of testing the best players to the greatest degree and then making it carnival golf,” he said. “I think it’s a very fine line, and it’s not a job I would want. And I know that the USGA is doing the best they can to find that line, and a lot of times they do, and sometimes they cross over it, but it’s not an easy job. It’s easy for all of us to criticize.
“The difficulty is, when you dream of a championship as a child — whether it’s U.S. Open or the Masters, whatever event — and you dream of winning these tournaments as a child and you work hours and hours and you fly in days and days and do all this prep work, and then you are left to chance the outcome, as opposed to skill, that’s a problem. That’s the problem that I have with it.”