Phil Mickelson believes that Oakmont provides his best chance of winning the US Open to complete the career grand slam, as long as conditions “cross the line” between difficult and unfair.
Mickelson has finished runner-up in the year’s second major championship a record six times, most recently when he shared the 54-hole lead at Merion in 2013 but went on to finish second behind Justin Rose.
A month later, the left-hander won his first Open title at Muirfield to leave himself needing to win his national open to join Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods in having won all four majors.
Mickelson has already described Oakmont as ‘’the hardest course we’ve ever played” and labelled the greens far more difficult than those at Augusta National, venue for the Masters.
“All that being said, I believe it also gives me the best chance because you have to really know how to play this style of golf,” said the five-time major winner, who celebrates his 46th birthday on Thursday and would surpass Hale Irwin (45) as the oldest US Open champion.
“It’s just not like a regular Tour event. It’s not like going out and playing golf at any other golf course. This is a whole different style of golf, something that over the years I’ve become very effective at.
“Because of that I would love to see it cross the line the way US Opens often do and become a little bit over the edge. That actually benefits me because we’re going to have a winner at the end of the week. Whatever that score is, who cares if it’s five under or 12 over, doesn’t matter; the lowest score wins.”
Asked how important it is to win the grand slam, Mickelson added: “Well, I could BS you and tell you I don’t think about it. No, I think about it all the time. This is the tournament I want to win the most to complete the four majors.
“I have to put that out of my head and try to execute and be patient and not think about results. You start thinking about results, you’ll never play your best golf.
“But there’s no question that starting this year and every year here forward until I ultimately win this tournament, it will be my biggest thought, my biggest focus, because I view those players that have won the four majors totally different than I view all the others.”
Aside from the opportunity at Merion, Mickelson was runner-up in 1999, 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2009, famously matching Colin Montgomerie in making a double-bogey on the 72nd hole at Winged Foot in 2006 to finish a shot behind Geoff Ogilvy.
“My most disappointing failure is going to be Merion because I was playing so well there, even though I look back at ’06 as my most heartbreaking because I was only a hole away,” Mickelson added.
Former world No 1 Adam Scott, meanwhile is hoping the weather forecast proves spot on so he can adopt a more aggressive approach than many of his US Open rivals.
Rain is predicted for today’s first round at Oakmont, and Scott is hoping that will help him challenge for a second major title.
“I was here a week and a half ago and it was playing nice and firm,” said the 2013 Masters champion, who finished fourth at Chambers Bay last year after a closing 64.
“It rained a lot that night and I played the next day with Rory and both of us probably made five or six birdies each that day, playing really nicely. The greens become receptive. The fairways become slightly wider because a ball down the edge of the fairway doesn’t run out into the rough.
“I think you’ve got to challenge this golf course… You’ve got to be a little bit smart, of course, but I think my plan certainly is to challenge this golf course this week.”