Phil Mickelson explains why he hasn’t made a pre-U.S. Open reconnaissance trip to Winged Foot this time

NAPA, Calif. – In preparation for the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot, Phil Mickelson played the famed layout in Mamaroneck, New York at least 10 times before championship week began. How many times has he played there in advance of next week’s U.S. Open? Try zero.

There’s method to Mickelson’s madness — but first, let’s flash back to 2006. Winged Foot’s general manager Colin Burns recounted to the web site National Club Golfer that no one had visited the club more than Mickelson the last time the Open was held there.

“He and Bones (Mackay) studied those greens,” Burns said. “If you look at his notepad for each green complex it looked like something developed by NASA – the dimensions, the slopes, the data points. It was just fascinating.”

Mickelson’s exhaustive prep sessions nearly paid off. He needed a par on the 72nd hole to win and a bogey to force a playoff with Geoff Ogilvy, but ended up smashing a crooked drive so far left that it caromed off a hospitality tent, then hit a tree with his next shot en route to making a double bogey and finishing with one of his six runner-up finishes at the U.S. Open.

Burns also recounted witnessing Mickelson in a tender moment.

“There was a moment after the award ceremony where I popped my head into the men’s locker room and he was up there alone with Dave Pelz and I guess it was Rick Smith, and Amy. Phil had his head down in his hands. I am not quite sure if he was crying but, clearly, he was very upset,” Burns said. “It was one of those moments where, if I had a camera, I would have liked to have taken a picture but I don’t think I would have had the heart to do that.”

Winged Foot in 2006 wasn’t the first time Mickelson studied a major course as if studying for the Bar exam. When Mickelson won the 2005 PGA Championship at Baltusrol in New Jersey, he made several reconnaissance missions to learn the layout, and credited Doug Steffen, the club’s long-time professional, with teaching him the nuances of the green.

It begs the question: why is Mickelson breaking from a tried-and-true system? Speaking to Golfweek at the Safeway Open, he explained that given the fact that there aren’t fans at this year’s U.S. Open (and limited media) it makes it easier for Mickelson to do the work he usually likes to do pre-tournament week without being distracted. As a matter of fact, Mickelson often avoids practicing at the championship site altogether on Wednesdays before majors, seeking an alternative course to fine-tune his swing.

In 2005 and again in 2016, Mickelson played Pine Valley Golf Club on the eve of the PGA Championship. Time will tell if Mickelson’s decision to wait until Monday to begin learning a Winged Foot course that has been redesigned by Gil Hanse since the previous Open there will prove adequate.

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By: Adam Schupak
Title: Phil Mickelson explains why he hasn't made a pre-U.S. Open reconnaissance trip to Winged Foot this time
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Published Date: Fri, 11 Sep 2020 16:00:18 +0000

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