Phil Mickelson had to settle for a share of second place on Sunday in Memphis, but a final-round 3-under 67 and a near hole-out for eagle on the par-4 18th at TPC Southwind earned a huge roar from the Phil-friendly fans and kudos from the CBS broadcasting booth.
Trailing by two strokes at the last, Mickelson took dead aim at the flag stick with his approach shot. Urging his ball to “get in,” Lefty raised his hands to his head as he watched his ball nearly find the bottom of the cup. He tapped in for birdie.
The dramatic finish to Mickelson’s week that started with the four-time major champion showing some rust with his short game proved to CBS analyst Ian-Baker Finch that the owner of 41 PGA Tour wins could tackle Merion Golf Club.
“Is he ready for the U.S. Open?” Finch asked. “Yes, sir.”
Mickelson, who has yet to add a U.S. Open triumph to his resume, has determined that the best way for him to warm up for a major is to play competitive golf the week before. Not wild about the TPC San Antonio course that hosted the Texas Valero Open, he passed up the opportunity to get tournament-ready directly ahead of the Masters and struggled to a T54.
"I didn't play well at the Masters this year taking the [prior] week off," Mickelson told reporters on Wednesday. "I know that for me to be sharp mentally, especially going into a tournament where the penalty for missing is so great, like the U.S. Open, it's important that I'm sharp and I'm ready to play."
His finish in Memphis put an exclamation point on Mickelson’s preparation for Merion, the Open track outside Philadelphia on which he practiced last week and where Tiger Woods got in some pre-Open-week work on Sunday, according to the AP’s Doug Ferguson.
"I really like playing here. It's a good golf course,” Mickelson told CBS’ David Feherty after closing at 10-under -- two shots back of winner Harris English and tied for second with Scott Stallings. “It's precise....There’s a real premium on hitting the fairways. You can then be aggressive into the greens...The shot-making, I thought, was very similar [to Merion]."
Pleased with his iron play and not so happy with his putting, Mickelson, who opened with a 71 and added three consecutive rounds in the 60s (67-65-67), concluded, that, all in all, Memphis was not a bad tune-up for what comes next.
“It was an encouraging week,” Mickelson told PGATour.com’s Don Wade. “I got better each day. It was fun to get into contention and feel the nerves a little bit.”