Phil Mickelson’s third round at the Waste Management Phoenix Open was as if the “old” Phil showed up. He shot a 6-under 65 with two birdies on the front, five on the back which included running the tables from 15 on in and a stray bogie when a 13-foot par saver lipped out.
Here’s how he did it.
Q. I know you’ve been a little bit frustrated in the last two weeks, I thought you handled the frustration very well. You kept telling me my game’s not that far off, you proved it today.
PHIL MICKELSON: It’s a, there’s a fine line between getting your mind in a mindset to go out and score and go out and play and have fun and getting away from the technical aspect of it. I’ve been working hard the last few months of getting the technical aspect down and it’s been hard for me to kind of transition my focus into play, to have fun and go hit shots and enjoy the day. Today it kind of turned. Today it kind of flipped a little bit. Yesterday I was still struggling getting into the round, if you will, getting focused on the score and how to play each hole the most effective. But today especially on the back nine I made a lot of good birdies.
Q. What was the energy like in your group, hometown crowd?
PHIL MICKELSON: It a really cool to come down those last five, six holes, feel the crowd and feel that energy. It definitely has helped me in the past in my successes here and I felt it today. It’s a big element in getting me to focus and getting me to hit some of my best shots. I just loved it and to make a 2 on 16 the last two days, both days, was awesome.
Q. Jon [Rahm] put it in the water on 17 twice in a row now. Is there a trick or is there anything you do to make sure that what somebody in your group is doing doesn’t affect you?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, I’ve got enough issues of my own to worry about other people, so I didn’t really even notice. I just tried to play the hole as effective as I can. For me that, yeah, I missed it right, I want to miss it right because my short game — it’s a hard up-and-down over there, but I’ve been able to do it in the past, I did it again today. So you want to be more aggressive, you want to try to make 2, I get it, but for me I have to play a little bit more conservative and play over to the right. So I didn’t really see — Jon hit after I hit so I didn’t get to see it.
Q. You stay conservative regardless of pin placements or does that factor in?
PHIL MICKELSON: That back left pin I’m happy with 4. Other pins I’m trying to make 3. If I get lucky, try to make 2. But the front, short of the green there really doesn’t help you get on the green. If you hit it up the center, it’s either going to kick left or it’s going to kick right, it doesn’t really kick forward on the green very easily unless it’s just perfect, so I just try to make 3.
Q. Do you think playing this way and getting to the third round in contention is a stepping stone of getting back to where you want to be?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think so. I had signs last year at Napa, finishing third, my only tournament for this wraparound season and at the Presidents Cup where I played very well, where I handled pressure. But after three months off, for me to get into contention I was certainly rusty the first two days. I felt like my game was good but I wasn’t as dialed in mentally on seeing the shot. I started to see what I didn’t want to have happen. You can’t do that out here.
Boy, is he right about that. At their best, you watch these guys play in person, they’re all “seeing the shot” and playing to the targets that suggested that shot. They’ve learned that playing with freedom so that their body can instinctively execute the vision gives them the best chance of a successful shot.
I’m going to keep working on that.