PINEHURST, N.C. — Phil Mickelson had a Monopoly game to finish on the flight back home to San Diego, and a birthday, his 44th, to celebrate on Monday.
Yes, the U.S. Open didn’t end the way he wanted it to on Sunday. But Mickelson, who has been runner-up six times at the championship, the streak famously starting here at Pinehurst No. 2 in 1999, feels strongly that there were be other opportunities to complete the career Grand Slam.
“Do I believe that? I believe in the next five years I’m going to have three or four really good chances, and I do believe I will get it,” Mickelson said. “I’m not upset or disappointed, I will have more chances. And right now, given the way I have been playing heading into this tournament, it was really a long shot.
“I’ve got to get some momentum and get my game sharp for me to really have a chance at winning and I’m going to spend the next five, six weeks seeing if I can get that to get it going here to finish the year strong.”
Mickelson, who counts five majors among his 42 PGA Tour victories, is still searching for his first top 10 of the 2013-14 season. Tee to green he’s been fairly solid but his putting has been problematic, and that was particularly true from shorter distances at this week Pinehurst No. 2.
Mickelson started the U.S. Open relatively well, shooting even par but was 3 over — and 13 behind Martin Kaymer — at the midway point of the 114th championship. He ended up shooting a pair of 72s on the weekend and fell down into a tie for 29th.
“After two days and throwing that many shots away, it was disappointing,” he said. “So I had to re-evaluate the weekend and just go out and fight hard and play well and try to build some momentum for the rest of the year.
“But the game’s slowly coming back. For me to throw five shots away each day and to easily make the cut and move up, I don’t feel like I’m that far off, but I’ve got some work to do.”
When someone asked if finishing well down the leaderboard was more palapable than coming oh-so-close, Mickelson, who defends his Open Championship title at Royal Liverpool next month, was quick to disagree.
“It is way worse, because there’s nothing more exciting than having a chance,” Mickelson said. “There’s nothing more exciting than waking up Sunday with a 3:25 tee time and an opportunity to win the U.S. Open, whether you win or lose, because that pressure, that nervous feeling, those butterflies, that energy from the crowd when you make a birdie, the excitement, there’s no replacement for that.
“That’s why we play.”