Phil’s Career Goal
For more than 20 years Phil Mickelson has been the blue eyed boy of American golf. He has won 34 PGA regular tournaments, five majors and millions of dollars. However, he may feel his career in professional golf is not complete until he wins the US Open. Mickelson has won three of the four majors and just requires the national championship of the country of his birth to become the sixth player to achieve the career Grand Slam.
Big Phil has finished second six times in the US Open and few people would begrudge him if he won the title he craves most. When he turned professional in 1992 he was identified as a future major champion. However, all these years later its surprising that he has won the Masters, Open and US PGA at least once but not the US Open. Despite having a game based on distance and a brilliant short game he has regularly contended in the major that puts a premium on accuracy more than any other.
The US Golf Association has a philosophy which explains: “A US Open course should test all forms of shot making, mental tenacity, and physical endurance under conditions of extreme pressure found only at the highest levels of championship golf”. Accordingly host courses have narrow fairways, unforgiving rough and fast greens with slick run-off areas. Chambers Bay is slightly is a variation on the norm but still rewards straight hitting more than distance.
Mickelson’s Grand Slam Warm-Up
However, the course this week can measure up to 7,900 yards which is long even by modern standards. Driving distance will be important but finding the greens in regulation and scrambling will be even more important. Chambers Bay is alongside the Pacific Ocean and will be susceptible to winds like the great links courses of Britain. Indeed the course that was only opened in 2007 was designed on the lines of a Scottish links course. Mickelson won the British Open at Muirfield in 2013.
He has put in the hours on a course new to most professionals that will take some knowing. He was quoted on the BBC Sport website as saying: “I really like the golf course. If you’re going to be ready for this tournament it takes a lot more time to learn the golf course than just a couple of days. I’m pleased I’ve developed a game plan for each hole and how I’m going to get to certain pins.” If Mickelson wins this week he will join an exclusive club of just five golfers to have won each major at least once.
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Career Grand Slam
Mickelson wants to join the giants of the game who have won a career Grand Slam. Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods are the only players to have won all four majors at least once. Nicklaus and Woods are the only players in that quintet to have won each major at least three times. Over 2000 and 2001 Tiger became the only player in history to hold all four Majors at the same time. Mickelson and Rory McIlroy are in a group of 12 players who are one major short.
Rory McIlroy is one of five players looking for a Masters to join the quintet of greats who have won each major. Mickelson is one of three players to have the US Open missing from their list of major titles while two players from a previous era did not win the Open Championship and US PGA. Tom Watson won five Opens, two Masters and a US Open but will retire from the game still missing a PGA on his CV. McIlroy and Mickelson are the current players with best chance of winning each major.
The Grand Slam in the men’s game is not an official honour and does not come with prize money or a trophy. The term is taken from the card game of bridge in which a grand slam is perfect hand. It has now come to mean the ultimate achievement in any sport but has most resonance with golf fans who in the history of the sport have never seen a male player win the four majors in the same calendar year. Jordan Spieth is now the only player who can win the Grand Slam in 2015.
Jordan Spieth’s Target
The world number two is one of just a few players in the field who have competitive experience of Chambers Bay. He played in the US Amateur Championship on the course in 2010 but his memories are more negative than positive. He shot 83 in the second qualifying round but as a teenager making his way in the game. Spieth has now won a major and has the potential to complete a career Grand Slam and possibly the youngest player ever. He has four years to win the three other than the Masters to achieve that goal.
Jim Furyk is now something of a veteran and its 12 years since he won the US Open, his only major to date. The second major of the season has produced several multiple champions over the last 25 years and Furyk could be another. In recent years he has shown a tendency to throw away opportunities in strokeplay tournaments and the Ryder Cup. However, he won the Heritage event in April which appeared to be a great relief. He has a game suited to Chambers Bay and could win the US Open again.
Justin Rose won the 2013 US Open so is another player looking for a double and has a better profile than Furyk and Mickelson. He is in the top 30 in either Europe or the States for driving distance, greens in regulation and scrambling and that is a great skill’s set in the context of the US Open course this year. Four of the last five winners have represented Europe in the Ryder Cup and Rose or McIlroy can extend that run by winning the most prestigious golf tournament played in the United States.
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