SAN FRANCISCO – Phil Mickelson decided not to leave the driver at home for the U.S. Open this time.
At Olympic Club this week, he might just leave it in the bag.
"Well, I'm not going to take the driver out of my bag entirely like I tried at one Open," Mickelson said Tuesday. 'There are a couple of holes that you can hit driver, but very few."
For a player who has never won a U.S. Open, Lefty still hasn't lost his sense of humor.
The 41-year-old American was poking fun at himself for his infamous decision not to bring a driver to Torrey Pines in 2008. Olympic's unleveled Lake Course is considered short — but with narrow fairways and small greens — by most U.S. Open standards, so perhaps Mickelson might get away with irons and hybrids all week.
Then again, this is the one time of year that has never been kind to Mickelson's game — no matter where he is.
The five-time runner-up for golf's national championship has been on the wrong side of records at this major.
Mickelson is paired with Woods and Masters champion Bubba Watson in the first two rounds beginning Thursday. It will be the first time Woods and Mickelson have been paired in the U.S. Open since the USGA grouped players off the world ranking in 2008.
"It's fabulous," Mickelson said. "First of all, I get excited to play with Tiger, I love it. I think we all do. He gets the best out of me. I think when it's time to tee off on Thursday I'll be ready to play.
"One of the issues I've had this year (is) I've been a little mentally lethargic on Thursday and Friday. I won't be this week. Second is the one player I'm most concerned about if I play my best golf that may have a chance to beat me is Tiger. And the fact that we are on the same wavelength, I'm always am in favor of. Sometimes we'll get a huge advantage in tee times, based on weather conditions or whatnot. If we're in the same wavelength, neither of us will have a distinct advantage."
The two last played together in the final round this year at Pebble Beach, which just so happened to be Mickelson's last victory. The rest of his season has been rather ordinary.
That is, with one exception.
Mickelson played in the last group of the Masters and fell out of contention when he hit consecutive shots from the right side. The green jacket went to another lefty, Watson, a big hitter who shapes shots with the best of them — and, at times, the worst of them — on the PGA Tour.
So standing alongside both Woods and Watson when the group tees off on No. 10 early Thursday morning should provide all the motivation Mickelson needs.
"I think it helps me because this is a tournament where, if you look at my game from 20,000 feet, you'd say, 'Well, that's probably not the best setup for the way he likes to play," Mickelson said. "And yet five times I've had opportunities, I've come close. Could have, should have won a few of those.
"And it gives me the belief that I can compete and be in contention on Sunday in this tournament."
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