LA QUINTA, Calif. – Phil Mickelson is on the clock. In June, he will turn 42 years old. That’s getting up there in golf. Men who reach that age, with the exception of Vijay Singh, Steve Stricker, and the great Sam Snead decades ago, do not win a lot of golf tournaments. Things happen. The body breaks down. The mind wanders. It’s called growing old.
Which is why this season is so critical for Mickelson. He’s got a legacy to craft, and he can’t do it the way he has played the last two years, with two victories in 41 starts. He needs more wins, especially majors. Four majors is nothing to belittle &ndash Fred Couples and Davis Love III, two tremendous talents, have only one apiece – but Mickelson should have close to double that amount by this point in his career. He’s that skilled. He gave a few away and he knows it.
Will this year be any different? Hard to say, of course, but if his season debut on Thursday in the first round of the Humana Challenge is any indication, Mickelson has a ways to go.
He recorded a two-over 74 at La Quinta Country Club on a sunny, windless day when 21 players shot 66 or lower at one of the tournament’s three courses, giving him no chance to make a run this week. You can come back from a 74 at Sawgrass or Augusta or at any of the demanding U.S. Open venues. You can’t come back from a 74 in this event, reduced from five to four rounds this year, where at least a dozen or so guys traditionally go low every day. Of the 144 players in the field, Mickelson beat only seven of them.