For the second consecutive week, neither Tiger Woods nor Phil Mickelson will be playing the weekend of a PGA Tour event. With Woods withdrawing on Thursday due to a back injury and Mickelson missing his second straight cut, perhaps this is the new normal?
Phil, the hometown fan favorite, followed his opening two-over 74 with an even-par 72 on Torrey Pines’ North Course, posting a two-over 36-hole total to fall three shots short of the cutline.
After decompressing in the scoring tent for 15-20 minutes, Mickelson spoke with the media and sounded absolutely lost with his putter.
“I feel like I’m hitting the ball tee to green quite well, really well, but my putting is beyond pathetic,” he said. “And if I can’t get back to the levels of 2013, I’m not sure what I’m going to do, because this is very frustrating.”
Mickelson needed 31 putts on Friday and 33 on Thursday and three-putted five times over the past two days. He became so frustrated that he switched back to the claw grip for the last few holes in the second round.
“I don’t think that the claw’s the long-term solution, although I think it’s a good way to putt, but it’s not ultimately where I want to be,” he said. “But I’m not sure what I’m going to do. It’s very frustrating to putt like that and feel like I’m — to hit the ball the way I did and then to putt like that, it’s frustrating.”
Mickelson has won twice at Torrey Pines as a professional, but he’s struggled since Rees Jones redesigned the South Course in 2001.
“Honestly I haven’t played well since the course has been redesigned,” he said. “I’ve not won it, I’ve been very rarely in contention, it’s been a struggle for me since 2002 when it was redone. But I love playing this tournament, I love the golf course, in the sense that I grew up here and every time I come out here, it brings back great memories of me of walking outside the ropes with my dad and playing high school matches and all the memories that have been formed for me over the years of playing here. But since it’s been redone, I played it terribly and it’s been a challenge for me to get in contention here.”
His poor putting is even more frustrating because he entered the year with optimism and confidence. In his first start in 2015, he finished T24 at the Humana Challenge.
“I look up and the ball’s not going in the hole,” said Mickelson. “I don’t know how else to say it. That’s got to change. So, I know I spent a lot of time in the off season with ball striking, with driving, with a lot of the areas that I’m doing well right now, primarily because I thought my putting was fine, I had putted phenomenal the last, all of 2013 and even the last few months of 2014. I felt that that wasn’t going to be an issue. But it is.”
While he can’t yet pinpoint the root of his troubles on the greens, he thinks it’s a result of poor mechanics that have impacted the mental side of it, as well.
“It’s probably a little bit of fundamentals are off and then it creeps into confidence and it starts not you start not seeing ball go in, you start seeing it miss and so it will probably take a little bit of both to get it back on track,” said Mickelson.
He doesn’t anticipate getting back on track on the greens right away, either.
“I don’t think it will be a quick fix, just because you putt bad for a few weeks, it’s going to take a little bit of good rounds,” he said. “It will take some not only fundamental change, but it will take some good low rounds and some hot putting streaks to get confidence back, too.”
Overall, Mickelson simply sounded despondent.
“I’m down,” he said. “I’m frustrated, I’m down, because I see other parts of my game do very well, but putting as bad as I have, it starts to creep in to some of the other areas, too.”
Mickelson now has vacation time scheduled over the next two weeks because his kids have a break from school. However, he know he needs to make time to work on his game before his next start at the Honda Classic held March 5-8.
“I need some work, so I’ll have to find time to get, see if I can get this fixed,” he said. “But right now I feel like it’s really isolated just to on the greens. I feel like the other areas are okay, but my putting is — you can’t compete when you putt like that.”
Asked what his expectations are for the Honda Classic, Mickelson replied, “I don’t know.”
Meanwhile, Harris English holds a two-shot lead at 10-under over Nick Watney, Jhonattan Vegas and Martin Laird.