Continued from page 1

• 2009, Bethpage Black - Acquitted himself well on Sunday with a relatively hiccup-free 70. Alas, winner Lucas Glover had five strokes to burn.

And let’s not forget the ‘95 Open, also at Shinnecock. Mickelson was just a stroke back going into the final day, but a 74 dropped him into a tie for fourth. He brought that one up himself Tuesday.

“I learned a lot from the [first] loss at Shinnecock,” he said. “Corey Pavin won, and a lot of people don’t even know I really was in it. … I played the [par-5] 16th hole 6 over par [for the week], and it ended up costing me the tournament. A lot of times in the U.S. Open, a par-5, which I normally think of as a birdie hole, is the toughest par. It’s changed my thought process about being overly aggressive on the par-5s.

“Since then I’ve kind of figured out how to manage myself around, control my misses and salvage pars the hard way. I’m not going to play perfect golf. I’m not going to hit every fairway. But there are times I can manage it and advance the ball far enough to salvage pars, and that’s allowed me to be in contention a number of times.”

From the sound of things, Mickelson loves Congressional. He considers No. 18 — a hefty 523 yards to an anxiety-inducing peninsula green — to be “the epitome of a great golf hole.” He’s thrilled that the USGA has “made the hard holes harder and kept the easy holes easy.” This, he explained, gives you tons of opportunities to come from behind - either by making pars on the toughies or birdies on the gimmes.

But does Congressional love Lefty back? His record there isn’t exactly sterling. He was a distant 43rd in the ‘97 Open, and didn’t fare much better in the 2005 Booz Allen (T-29) or the ‘07 AT&T National (missed cut). Those are his three and only appearances on the property.

No matter. With Tiger back in the body shop, Mickelson is the Resident Immortal on the U.S. side this week. So take a good look at him in the next few days as the older, wiser Lefty selectively goes for it — and tries to win the elusive Open.

And while you’re doing it, ask yourself this: Since he’s bypassed the last two AT&Ts, and the Open won’t be returning to Congressional for at least another decade, could this be the last time he plays in Washington?