SHEBOYGAN, Wis. — Phil Mickelson had a major record in sight, but settled for a personal best instead.
Mickelson shot a third-round, 6-under 66 at the PGA Championship on Saturday behind nine birdies, the most he’s had in 347 major championship rounds.
“It’s been two years since I’ve been at my best and it’s a little disappointing that it’s taken so long,” said Mickelson, who may have challenged the major record of 63 if not for three three-putts. “But I’m trying to be patient and rounds like these help because I see how close I am to finally being at my best.”
And for Mickelson – 5 under for the tournament at Whistling Straits – his game is coming together just in time for the stretch run of the PGA TOUR season. Not only are the FedExCup Playoffs just around the corner, The Presidents Cup is very much in Mickelson’s mind.
Mickelson ranks 36th in The Presidents Cup standings and is really grinding to make the team on points alone. The top 10 in the standings through the Deutsche Bank Championship, along with two Captain’s picks, qualify for the October matches in South Korea.
“I’m certainly way far away,” said Mickelson, who has made every Presidents Cup team since 1994. “But I know that rounds like this tell me that I’m very close to having it click. If it clicks, I’ll end up — I should be able to win one of those next couple of (FedExCup Playoffs) events and get myself right back up there in contention for the points.”
“I don’t want to have to be a pick,” Mickelson continued. “I haven’t been a pick in 20 years. I don’t want to be a pick now. I want to get on the team on my own merit, but I haven’t played well enough soon enough to do it.”
Through his first five holes Rory McIlroy was 4 under and appeared to perhaps be on his way to something special, particularly after canning a 65-foot putt for eagle on the par-5 fifth.
It never materialized, though. McIlroy played the remaining 13 holes in even par and his rust was magnified on the par-4 eighth, where he hit driver into the narrow part of the fairway, found the rough and made bogey.
“That was just a bad decision off the tee,” he said. “I should have hit 3-wood off the tee. … It was just a bad mental decision. That’s something that wouldn’t happen if I had been a little bit more sharp and played a few more competitive rounds. But these things happen and just try to learn from them and move on.”
The fast start, soft conditions and having not played a tournament in six weeks also made it difficult for McIlroy to not get anxious.
“In a way it’s difficult not to get ahead of yourself because the course was gettable and it was just as soft as it was on Thursday,” he said. “With the heat and everything, the ball’s going a long way. So the course was playing quite a bit shorter than it played at the start of the week.”