SPRINGFIELD, N.J. (AP) — Phil Mickelson is running out of time to validate what quietly has been a good year, minus only a victory.
He is not running out of patience.
Mickelson expects the disappointment from his runner-up finish in the British Open to linger because of how well he played, only to lose to the lowest score in major championship history. He found himself thinking too much about results in the PGA Championship, and along with not making putts, he was never a factor at Baltusrol.
“Certainly, the play this year at the British tells me that I’m able to play at a high level,” said Mickelson, who turned 46 in June and is starting to check out colleges for his oldest daughter, 17-year-old Amanda. “I’m starting to see my game come back. I’m starting to hit the shots again – what I’m visualizing, what I’m seeing – and doing it with ease now.”
He had only two winless years on the PGA Tour, 1999 and 2003, until going the last two years without a victory. The British Open wasn’t his only close call. He missed a short putt at Pebble Beach to get into a playoff with Vaughn Taylor. He closed with a 67 to finish second in the FedEx St. Jude Classic. And then there was Royal Troon, where his 267 was topped only by Henrik Stenson’s 264 in British Open history. Call that a case of bad timing.
Even so, three runner-up finishes is the most Mickelson has ever had in a year that he didn’t win.
Next up is a three-week break before he plans to play all four FedEx Cup playoff events. He has announced that after the Ryder Cup, he will play the Safeway Open that starts the 2016-17 season in Napa, California.
“I wouldn’t say the lack of a win this year would be a failure, but it wouldn’t be as successful as I want or expect,” Mickelson said. “However, I’m optimistic heading into these next few events because I’m starting to hit shots.”
Lost in this winless year is that Mickelson is on the verge of qualifying for his 11th straight Ryder Cup team. He has never been a captain’s pick. Perhaps even more amazing is that his passion is still high in his 25th year on the PGA Tour.
“It’s been very frustrating for me when I arrive to the course and shots aren’t coming off,” he said. “Trying to hit fades and it’s drawing. Ball is not starting down my intended line. All those things have been very frustrating, but that has not been the case this year. The ball is starting down my line. The feel and touch is starting to come back. I’m starting to shoot some good scores. So I’m excited about where it’s going.”