News & Opinion

So, has Phil Mickelson impressed you yet?

Phil Mickelson 2020 Travelers Championship
Phil Mickelson recorded a split decision last week. He won an exemption into this year’s U.S. Open, but he lost the lead on the weekend at the Travelers Championship.

With a fast start and slow finish last week, Mickelson divides Morning Read columnists about his status 1 month into the PGA Tour season restart, but the U.S. Open spot ought to boost Lefty

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Longtime golf journalists John Hawkins and Mike Purkey, who co-host the weekly Hawk & Purk podcast on MorningRead.com, also discuss and debate the game’s hottest issues in this weekly commentary.

Are you discouraged or encouraged by what Phil Mickelson did in Hartford last week?

Hawk’s take: Very few players on earth can turn a T-24 into news, but Mickelson is one of them. He had the 36-hole lead to himself, and though nobody ever won a PGA Tour event on a Friday afternoon, it certainly helped justify the U.S. Open exemption that Lefty was given shortly before he opened his Travelers Championship with a 64. In that context, his lackluster weekend performance means little.

The guy still has plenty of good golf left in him, not to mention a history of defying skeptics, overcoming obstacles and claiming five major titles after his 33rd birthday. Can Mickelson finally win a U.S. Open? Probably not, but there’s more reason to believe now than 10 days ago. Almost seven years have passed since Philly Mick shocked the world with his heroic charge at the 2013 British Open, capturing the one tournament that nobody, including himself, ever thought he’d lay his hands on.

It’s a mistake to write him off, even at age 50. A man with 44 Tour triumphs rarely finds much satisfaction in a fast start and slow finish, but Mickelson obviously has cause for big-picture optimism, given what happened in Hartford. The older Phil isn’t all that different from the younger Phil, and when the glass is half-Philled, small victories can lead to big ones.

Purk’s take: Before we go all breathless about Phil Mickelson taking the halfway lead at the Travelers Championship with rounds of 64-63, let us call on an essential truth: one thing less remembered than a runner-up is a 36-hole leader.

Since January, Mickelson has played in seven events and made only two cuts. One was a third place at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, and the other was the Travelers, where he went 2 over during the weekend and finished T-24.

Granted, he’s probably in the best shape of his life at age 50. And he has made a pronouncement that he’s hitting “bombs” off the tee. However, bombs, bodybuilder calves and $4.95 will get you a Starbucks Grande Dark Roast with a splash of almond milk. They won’t get you a trophy on the PGA Tour.

Whatever’s in that gum he’s chewing had better be something to help him with his focus, because he’s obviously losing some of it. How else can you explain a player with perhaps the best short game of his generation absolutely boning one out of a greenside bunker and OB at the 13th in the third round?

Father Time is undefeated. The only over-50 who can keep up his mental strength for 72 holes is Bernhard Langer, and that dude is wired differently. Maybe Mickelson needs to find out what Langer is chewing and buy a case of it.

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