SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – Phil Mickelson wants to win the U.S. Open, just not this early in the week.
The hard-luck story of Mickelson at the Open is a familiar one. He has been runner-up six times, the last one at Merion in 2013 when he bogeyed three of his last six holes, finished with a 74 and lost by two strokes to Justin Rose.
Time would appear to be running out: the popular lefthander will celebrate his 48th birthday on Saturday and will be serenaded by the gallery on each and every hole at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club.
However, as much as Mickelson wants this win to complete the career grand slam, it’s not going to happen on Thursday, or even Friday. He knows that and he doesn’t want that yearning to interfere with a good start.
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“I don’t want to get ahead of myself and I don’t want to start thinking about results,” Mickelson said Monday. “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 weekend.
“The way you get in trouble here is you anticipate too much and you get too far ahead. Right now, I just want to enjoy these first couple of days of preparation and go shoot a number on Thursday, and hopefully give myself a chance on the weekend.”
Mickelson hasn’t contended in an Open since Merion. His best finish since is a tie for 28th in 2014 at Pinehurst. He missed the cut in 2016 at Oakmont and sat out the championship last year to attend his daughter’s high school graduation.
Four of his runner-up finishes have come at New York-area courses – 2002 and 2009 at Bethpage Black, 2006 at Winged Foot, and 2004 at Shinnecock where a three-putt from 5 feet on No. 17 resulted in a double bogey and a two-stroke loss to Retief Goosen.
Of course, 2004 also was one of the most controversial Opens in U.S. Golf Association history after a lack of water made the green on the par-3 seventh hole unplayable. Throughout the final round, workers had to water the green after every group to ensure a well-struck shot would stay on the surface.
Mickelson, who called the 2004 farce “disappointing,” acknowledged Monday that USGA officials “have a difficult job to find the line of testing the best players to the greatest degree, and making it carnival golf.
“I think it’s a very fine line and it’s not a job I would want,” he said. “I know that the USGA is doing the best they can to find that line. A lot of times they do, and sometimes they cross over it.
“When you dream of winning these tournaments as a child and you work hours and hours and you fly in days [before] 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 a problem I have with it.”
Mickelson is enjoying a fine season. His win in March at the World Golf Championship-Mexico was his first since the 2013 British Open. He has five other finishes in the top six and ranks seventh on the money list with more than $3.9 million.
For now, however, the focus isn’t on Sunday at the Open. It’s much earlier.
“That’s certainly a goal and nothing I’m shying away from,” he said. “But the more I think about winning, the more it detracts away from my focus and the process of playing a round on Thursday.
“So I don’t really want to try to win right now. I just want to get for the weekend.”