Phil Mickelson makes no secret of the fact that his dream is to complete the career grand slam by winning the U.S. Open and that he would relish doing so in June at Pinehurst. But the world’s fourth-ranked golfer, at 43, believes he has plenty of time to earn not only his first national championship but maybe another one for good measure.
"I’m not going to hide from it. It’s pretty obvious that would be a career goal of mine to win the career grand slam and the U.S. Open is that final link," the five-time major winner with a record six U.S. Open runner-up finishes told reporters ahead of this week’s Farmers Insurance Open. "I’m excited that the tournament that I’ve played some of my best golf in is the one that I haven’t won and I feel like it’s just a matter of time."
With the tourney to be contested on the course where Mickelson first finished second, to Payne Stewart in 1999, many observers believe the North Carolina track would fit Lefty’s game to a tee. The San Diego Chargers stalwart, crestfallen by his team’s AFC divisional loss to the Super Bowl-bound Broncos was not ready to proclaim himself the favorite for the Pinehurst title.
"It may be this year at Pinehurst, it may not," said the reigning British Open champion about his chances to emerge victorious in the season's second major. "But I do believe that [a U.S. Open win] will come. It’s a tournament that I’ve played in too well over the years not to finally win and I actually believe I’ll win a couple. So I’m not putting it all on one week."
Not exactly Lebron James promising "not one, not two," but Mickelson’s statement spoke to the confidence he brings this week to Torrey Pines, thanks to a new driver that helped him -- despite that "crazy s**t" penalty -- to a tie with Rory McIlroy for second in Abu Dhabi.
"As the club heads have gotten bigger, my driving has gotten worse," Mickelson said before launching into his techno-geek spiel about his new 10-degree Callaway Big Bertha Alpha driver, which he said last week was "a whole different weapon in my arsenal."
The bottom line -- amid all the talk of a lower and more forward center of gravity, less spin, and moment of inertia -- is that Phil the Thrill plans to be even scrappier on the course because he can swing his driver as if it were a 7-iron or a 5-iron.
"My irons are the strength of my game," he said. "So now that I’m able to make the same swing with both driver and irons and have the same kind of control with the driver as I do my irons, I’m going to be able to be a much more aggressive player -- not that I wasn’t before -- but more aggressive in that I’ll be playing from ... more ideal spots."
Phil will bring his new and improved bombs-away attitude to Torrey, where he's won three times, starting Thursday. The San Diego native will kick off his 2014 PGA Tour season on No. 10 of the North Course (his preferred track and one that he’s in the process of redesigning) at 9:30 local time with Jason Day and Bubba Watson.