Phil Mickelson has made no secret that there's one main target on his 2014 schedule, and that's the U.S. Open at Pinehurst in six weeks. He stated at the start of the season that he would re-work his typical schedule just to set up optimal prep and build toward a crescendo for his national championship. It's the white whale of his career, where he's an amazing six-time runner-up at the one event he now needs to complete a rare career grand slam. In Novemeber, Mickelson said he had "a bit of a concern about Pinehurst [No. 2] because I'm almost looking forward to it too much."
So with all that self-admitted hype and anticipation, Mickelson must be going through his paces at the North Carolina course as often as possible with the season's second major rapidly approaching. Well, not exactly, as the No. 9 player in the world can't get a tee time on the public No. 2 course (via AP's Doug Ferguson):
"I've tried to get down there three times now, and the course has been booked all three times," Mickelson said Wednesday. "So I don't know when I'll get down there."
It's hard to believe he's been unable to wedge his way onto the tee sheet, so there may be a little embellishment there. Pinehurst is always packed, and the upcoming major championship, with the USGA conditions already rounding into place, will only attract more of the weekend hacking public (even if the cost can push four figures).
Mickelson is just a couple hours down the road from Pinehurst, playing at Quail Hollow, a redesigned course that he called "perfect" earlier this week. It's unclear if he'll be able to get a practice round in before he makes the trip south to TPC Sawgrass for the season's "fifth major" next week.
Pinehurst was the site of the first of Phil's six second-place finishes, that memorable loss to Payne Stewart occurring in 1999. That specific result and his overall history at the event have crafted a nice narrative that will overwhelm the pre-tournament coverage this year, especially with Tiger likely on the shelf again.