June 14, 2021
SAN DIEGO, Calif. (Reuters) – Phil Mickelson, fresh off a historic win at the PGA Championship, said on Monday he had a head start on getting reacquainted with Torrey Pines in a bid to bury his U.S. Open demons this week.
Mickelson, who has finished runner-up at the U.S. Open a record six times, grew up playing Torrey Pines but due to a redesign wanted to get familiar with the layout that sits atop the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
“I really made an effort here, having the last week off, to spend time out here and really learn, relearn the greens,” said Mickelson, who with a win this week would complete a career Grand Slam of the four majors.
“So I spent a lot of hours out here on the greens last week to see if I can get that local knowledge again, and we’ll see how it goes, but I had a lot of fun kind of relearning and spending a lot of time out here.”
Although not usually among the tournament favourites these days, Mickelson still has the ability to dial it up as he proved at Kiawah Island last month where, at age 50, he won the PGA Championship by two strokes to become golf’s oldest major champion.
The six-times major winner, who turns 51 on the eve of the U.S. Open, also earned a five-year exemption into his national championship through 2025 with his PGA Championship win.
Making his 30th U.S. Open start, the most of anyone in the 156-player field, Mickelson has been focused on doing all he can to finally join Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Tiger Woods on the career Grand Slam list.
“It’s a unique opportunity because I’ve never won a U.S. Open. It’s in my backyard. I have a chance to prepare properly, and I wanted to put in the right work,” said Mickelson, whose most recent U.S. Open runner-up finish came in 2013.
“So I’ve kind of shut off all the noise. I’ve shut off my phone. I’ve shut off a lot of the other stuff to where I can kind of focus in on this week and really give it my best chance to try to play my best.
“Now, you always need some luck, you always need things to kind of come together and click, but I know that I’m playing well, and I just wanted to give myself every opportunity to be in play at my best.”
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Ed Osmond)