A swing changed the PGA on Saturday and highlighted what Phil Mickelson can’t do on Sunday – fr

A swing changed the PGA on Saturday and highlighted what Phil Mickelson can’t do on Sunday – fr

KIAWAH ISLAND, SC – There’s only one thing that can derail Phil Mickelson at this PGA Championship, and he knows it.

This is not an occasional foul ball. It wasn’t the putter that started to give him away with age, nor a rash decision.

No, to hear Mickelson, it’s actually quite simple: it’s the lack of a clear picture. Cloudy visualization. That’s why he walks so slowly on the fairways. This is why he scans his footage book so deliberately. That’s why he stands behind his ball for 10 seconds, breathing deeply, flexing his left hand, blinking softly. Without this intense focus, he is prone to wanderings, mistakes, and nasty moves, and this could doom him. He knows this, so he started recording 45-hole training days and longer meditation sessions to “use my mind like a muscle and build it.”

But four hours of unwavering focus is a big demand for a 50-year-old on the verge of history. So good for so long on Saturday at Kiawah Island – as well as we’ve seen in the past five years – Mickelson suffered from the momentary lapse he strove to avoid. This one was particularly expensive, opening the PGA and bringing two big winners back into the mix, including the big and bad Brooks Koepka, the best major performer of the past half-decade. With five shots at one point, Mickelson came home in 38 and is just one stroke ahead of an excited Koepka and two ahead of a relieved Louis Oosthuizen.

“I think we were all lucky that he came back on the pitch,” said Oosthuizen.

Because for about two hours on Saturday it was Mickelson in flight. Bidding at 50 to become the longest-serving major champion in history, there was so much mystery about how he would fare in the limelight again. He hasn’t had a top-10 in a major in five years – or a top-10 in a regular event in eight months – and yet he was there, leading the PGA on one of the most evil courses in the world. .

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He would surely back off from the moment, just like he did after an opening 63 at Quail Hollow two weeks ago, and just like he did when just four back halfway at Augusta National in last november. Except Mickelson strung a 267-meter-long iron to set up a two-of-2-putt birdie. Then he almost dipped a corner of 3. Then he rolled into a mid-range birdie of 6 and two putts. for another in 7. He was vintage Phil on a birdie blitz, boosted by the biggest major crowd in 21 months.

His pursuers struggled to keep pace. Bryson DeChambeau stalled on a 71. Brooks Koepka fought not only a bald knee, but an icy putter. Oosthuizen, meanwhile, looked to be shaken by a poor warm-up and a bad swing off the opening tee. While fighting his pilot, he played his first seven holes in 1.

“It was probably the worst I’ve played in a while,” said Oosthuizen, “especially the first 10 holes with Phil hitting it beautifully and playing great, I was all over the place. I could sense very early on that I was not on the song.

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Once Mickelson poured a bird putt in 10, it appeared, at least for a while, as if the rout was on. He was five years early. There were only 26 holes left.

“I felt I had a very clear picture on every shot,” said Mickelson, “and I rocked the club well, and so I executed. “

His first bad swing of the day came on par 4 12e. The 462-yard player played just a shadow above par on Saturday as most players blew their practice down the left side, in a fairly generous portion of the fairway. But Mickelson pulled his 2-wood, grabbing one of the bunkers that saw little action; he was one of only three players to find sand on the tee. After drawing an awkward lie, Mickelson lay down and couldn’t convert the 30 footer for par. A two-hit swing ensued, with Oosthuizen cashing on a stuffed approach, his second birdie in a row. Suddenly, Mickelson’s important lead was reduced to two.

Then came the most pivotal hole in this championship through 54 holes.

Still not quite comfortable with his swing, Oosthuizen sliced ​​his tee shot in the water on par 4 13e. The only question was whether he got over the margin of the obstacle or whether he needed to re-tee; Mickelson said there was little doubt. “He flew over there, and there was a big cut,” Mickelson said. “There was no doubt in my mind where we were from that it was crossing up there. “

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With his closest pursuer in trouble, Mickelson could have been forgiven for having bailed out on the left, out of trouble. Almost all of the players on the field rested in the same area, leaving around 190 yards of approach in a well-protected green. Once again, he went through his usual routine – breathing, visualizing – and seemed to have a clear vision of what he wanted to hit: a toss with his 2 wood chasing the fairway. Only this time his tee ball hung so viciously it didn’t even make it through the landing in front. Automatic reloading, leading to a double bogey and outright loss of advance.

Watching the action unfold in the Scores Tent, Padraig Harrington was not surprised. “Phil would refuse to hit him in the rough left because it would be weak,” he said. “Hitting him on the waterline isn’t weak – it’s the brave blow. OK, that didn’t happen, but he’s not going to back down. He’s going to hit the punches and lash out.

Harrington apparently exuded more confidence than Mickelson, who looked dizzy as he left the green.

“It’s just an example of the loss of the feel and the image of the photo,” he said afterwards. “I get a little nervous, a little quick from the top, and when that happens I shrink and end up flipping it over. So these two swings were more the product of not staying or keeping the feel and focus of the shot. So it’s just a little thing that I have to iron out.

Said Oosthuizen, “Phil hit two bad tee shots and cost him three shots. Other than that, he played wonderfully.

Mickelson posted five straight starts to close, but he almost blew his tee shot on 16 on the range and had to bend into a 5-footer on the last to maintain his narrow lead. Speaking to the media afterwards, it was clear that shooting (and lack of focus) on 13 had shaken his confidence, as he knew. He tried to stop the presser early but was called back by one last question. “The last one,” he said, “because I don’t have much daylight.”

A minute later, at 7:35 p.m., he put on his glove as he walked to the shooting range, where Caddy / Brother Tim and swing coach Andrew Getson were already waiting. They used the badge on Getson’s yellow thong to investigate Mickelson’s fairway wood face and ended up swapping the head. “It just got shabby over there,” he said. Then he tore 2-wood after 2-wood, five, 10, 20 of them, the giant dashboard spewing bullet speed numbers (170 mph) and carry distance (270 yards).

Mickelson moved quickly, efficiently, swaying with conviction. In the fading daylight, with the scope almost to himself, he had a clear picture, okay. It was from him holding the Wanamaker Trophy.


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