Phil Mickelson is one of the big name attractions this week as the world number 20 tees it up at TPC Southwind for the FedEx St. Jude Classic. A host of big names are taking a week off before the US Open, but the 45-year-old has decided to give his game a workout before heading to Oakmont.
‘I really like this tournament and this course. I think it’s the most underrated golf course we play on tour. I think the beauty of this course is in its simplicity and how it really challenges you with precision, not necessarily overwhelming length. But the greens are small. You have to shape shots, and you have to hit it in the proper position or you get blocked out by trees. I think that TPC Southwind is one of our best courses we have, one of my favorites, and I look forward to coming back here every year,’ he said ahead of the tournament that starts on Thursday.
This season Mickelson has accumulated eight top-20 finishes, four of them being top-10’s and has a best finish of second place, coming at the ATT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. He has amassed a little over $2.1 million and sits 22nd in the FedEX Cup standings.
A win has eluded Mickelson since his back-to-back triumphs at the Scottish Open and Open Championship in 2013. This week could provide the World Golf Hall of Famer with his best chance since then, especially considering the amount of near misses he has had in recent times.
His record at TPC Southwind is impressive. His first appearance was back in 2009 where he tied for 59th, but he didn’t play the tournament again until 2013, after which he has returned annually. His 2013 finish was a tie for second, while he finished tied 11th and tied third in 2014 and 2015 respectively.
Mickelson is one of the hottest putters on tour this season, ranking in the top-10 of many of the putting statistics, including second in putts inside ten feet and eighth in putts per round. He also boasts top-10 placings in putting from 15 to 20 feet and birdie or better conversion rate.
His approach play has also been right up there where he ranks in the top-20 on tour in approaches between 250 and 275 yards, 175 and 200 yards and 125 and 150 yards. This shows that his approaches are excellent from a variety of distances. Add to this that he is number four in strokes gained in terms of approaches to the green and it looks like Mickelson is due a win sometime soon.
Whether that comes this week is uncertain but the former world number two will definitely have an eye on Oakmont next week, where putting is crucial, as he goes in search of a career grand slam. While his US Open record shows that his best finish is second on no less than six occasions, his last visit to Oakmont at the 2007 US Open ended in a missed cut as Angel Cabrera won with a five-over-par total after four rounds.
However in preparation, Mickelson has tested the waters by playing Oakmont before arriving in Memphis for the FedEx St. Jude Classic.
‘I’ve played Oakmont the last two days, and I really think it is the hardest golf course we’ve ever played. They don’t know what the weather is going to be next week, if it’s going to be dry or if it’s going to be wet. So what they do is they let the rough grow long, and if it is wet they’ll leave it like that, and if it’s dry they’ll thin it out. So yesterday the rough was extremely long, I guess, and challenging. But it’s a very fair test, even though it’s hard. But a lot of golf courses when it challenges you tee to green the way Oakmont does, it usually has a little bit of a reprieve on the greens, and you really don’t at Oakmont. They’re some of the most undulating, fast, difficult greens to putt. It really is the hardest golf course I think we’ve played.’
The likes of Ernie Els and Reief Goosen are also in the field this week as they to look to warm-up ahead of their trips to Oakmont next week.