Phil Mickelson aims to play golf in Rio’s 2016 Olympics

Scott Halleran

Phil Mickelson surprises his interviewer by letting him in on a little secret: the five-time major champ wants to compete for Olympics gold in 2016.

Phil Mickelson, as all Phil-ologists are well aware, longs to add a U.S. Open title next to his name. But there’s another yearning the 43-year-old, five-time major champion has harbored for some time that only recently became a realistic possibility.

"I want to be an Olympic athlete," Mickelson told a surprised Harry Arnett, Callaway Golf’s senior marketing VP, in a wide-ranging chat during the company’s ad shoot in Las Vegas. "I think it would be really cool ... a life experience."

Mickelson finally captured his first British Open victory in July, just a month after another heartbreaking runner-up finish (a record sixth) at his own national championship, and is coming off perhaps his most triumphant season in his 21-year PGA Tour career. He credited advancements in technology that let him hit 3-wood rather than driver off many tees, a rejuvenated putting stroke, and the wisdom gained over the years for his two-win 2013 campaign.

The highly regarded southpaw, who Thursday earned Golf Magazine’s player of the year honors over Tiger Woods and his five Ws in 2013, would relish the opportunity to put his hard-earned skills to the test in Rio.

The Brazilian hot spot will host the Olympics in 2016, when golf will be a featured sport for the first time since 1904, and Mickelson aims to be among the competitors playing for the U.S.

"It would be a challenge for me to be playing at the highest level when I’m 46, in three years," said the fourth-ranked player in the men's game, who noted that he was "still one of the top players in the world" and "playing some of the best golf" of his life.

"I’m excited about the upcoming years because its taken me 20 years to acquire and accumulate this knowledge in each area of my game -- on how to practice well, what kind of equipment  is best suited for those areas, mentally being focused," Mickelson added, "to where I’m playing and competing at a level that is better than it’s ever been."

"I’m so excited about these upcoming years," he said, "but really with the longer-term goal, three years down the road, of being an Olympic athlete."

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