Phil Mickelson, as even those who are not die-hard Phil-ologists well know, has never won his country’s national championship. But don’t tell that to Lefty’s subconscious, which had the six-time U.S. Open runner-up believing he had finally socked away that elusive major that’s missing from his resume.
"I’m going to share something with you," Mickelson told reporters Tuesday, ahead of this week’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, the final tune-up before the PGA Championship that starts a week from Thursday. "I had something happen to me Sunday morning of the U.S. Open that was really weird: when I woke up, I had dreamt that I had already won the U.S. Open and so I had the same feelings and excitement that I had won, I finally won the U.S. Open.
"It was such a great feeling," the five-time major champion said wistfully, "it took me over a minute to realize that I haven’t played the final round and I’ve got to go out and still do it."
The dream, which Mickelson took as "a premonition" that "obviously didn’t pan out," was so vivid that, "having thought I had already won, I was looking for the trophy; it’s like, ‘where is it?’
"And then it dawned on me where I was. I was in a strange house...and that I hadn’t played the final round and I hadn’t won it yet, and I still haven’t won it."
Mickelson carries the illusion with him even now, noting that it has colored his waking moments since he actually did triumph at Muirfield.
"Everyday, I wake up in the last nine days," Mickelson said, "I wonder if -- honestly, I look at the [Open Championship] trophy to make sure that I hadn’t just dreamt that, that I actually did win it and I already played the final round."
While owning the U.S. Open prize may still be only in the imagination of the second-ranked player in the world, the Claret Jug is not, and Mickelson called earning it the most celebrated achievement of his 21 years as a professional golfer.
Learning to play the shots he needed to conquer links golf was such a challenge for the inveterate risk-taker that playing the Open Championship created the toughest challenge for Phil the Thrill.
"It was so difficult for me to play my best golf in the British Open under those conditions," Mickelson said, "that to win that is the greatest accomplishment for me in my career."
As for the Claret Jug, which made the rounds at Callaway HQ last week, Phil’s not about to let it out of his sight.
"I'm just excited every day that I've got the Claret Jug, and I get to look at it every day," Mickelson said. "I look at the trophy to make sure that I actually did win it and I already played the final round."
Even this week, in Ohio, where Mickelson will play the first two rounds of the Bridgestone Invitational with U.S. Open winner Justin Rose, the memento of his triumph will be there when Lefty wakes up each morning.
"It's not like I'm going to leave it [home]," he said, adding that he would let his pals take a sip from the decanter.
"That’s a cool experience that not many people get to do," he said.