“My back’s feeling great, my body’s been feeling great,” Mickelson said in a statement released by the PGA Tour. “I pulled a muscle on my downswing trying to hit the ball hard on the second hole. It just killed and it wouldn’t subside for 10 or 12 seconds.”
If there is a place Mickelson can show up at less than his best and still be a factor, it’s Augusta National. At age 43 and 10 years removed from his breakthrough major triumph in the 2004 Masters, Mickelson remains on the short list of favorites.
“I’m not sure at what point it will change, but that golf course is just tailor-made for the way I like to play,” he said. “Short game, such a big factor. The way I know the greens. It’s so critical to know the intricacies and nuances, which I’ve learned over the years. I don’t know at what point I won’t be feeling as though I have a great chance to win, but certainly right now I feel I do.”
That’s a feeling he never had at the British Open, which made his win last year all the more rewarding.
“I don’t know how many times in the previous 10 or 12 years leading up to that (2004 Masters) I finished in the top 10, had opportunities to win and whatnot, so I knew when I showed up at Augusta I was going to have a chance to win.
“But I didn’t have that same feeling, obviously, at the British Open. I had very erratic performances. I had two times I finished in the top three, coming close, finishing second and third in ’11 and ’04.”
After the Masters, Mickelson will set his sights on that elusive U.S. Open trophy to join his green jackets, claret jug and Wanamaker Trophy. It’s a club whose only members are Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Ben Hogan and Gene Sarazen.
“I think that if I’m able to win the U.S. Open and complete the career Grand Slam, I think that that’s the sign of the complete great player,” Mickelson said. “And I’m a leg away. And it’s been a tough leg for me. But I think that’s the sign. I think there’s five players that have done that. And those five players are the greats of the game. You look at them with a different light.”