Barber: Phil Mickelson fails to make cut at Safeway Open
NAPA — Phil Mickelson had a very bad first round Thursday here at the Safeway Open, but he left the course that day convinced he was on the cusp of a personal rebirth.
“If it were a few months ago, I would let it get to me a lot more than I did today,” Mickelson said to reporters that afternoon, standing just off the putting green at Silverado Resort. “I actually have a lot more confidence and energy and excitement to play, and my attitude’s just a lot better. So I’ll come out tomorrow, I’m going to shoot a good round. I’ll shoot 6, 7 under par tomorrow, I really believe that.”
Mickelson was much improved Friday. But not to the degree he had predicted. He shot 3 under for the day, finishing the first two rounds even. It was enough to provide the veteran some optimism, but not enough to make the cut. Mickelson would be heading home as a few dozen less-celebrated golfers prepared for the weekend.
It wasn’t the start Mickelson had envisioned to the 2019-20 PGA Tour season. In fact, it bore a close resemblance to his 2018-19, a campaign he was hoping to put behind him as quickly as possible.
Mickelson is in a protracted slump. There’s no way around it.
Think back to the Masters tournament last April. Mickelson played well at Augusta and finished 6 under par, a score that put him behind just 17 other men. This is what Mickelson’s results looked like in the 10 tournaments that followed the Masters: missed the cut, tied for 71st, missed the cut, tied for 52nd, missed the cut, missed the cut, missed the cut, finished 57th, tied for 71st, tied for 48th. He finished below par at just one of those events — the last one, the BMW Championship in Medina, Illinois.
“I’m not happy with the way the last six months have gone, probably the worst six months of my career, and I’m determined to fix it,” Mickelson said here Wednesday, after playing in the same foursome as Stephen Curry in the Pro-Am.
Indeed, Mickelson seems intent on reinventing himself, an ambitious project for someone who will turn 50 next June.
His strategy is holistic. It kicked into gear in July, when he announced at the British Open that he was putting himself through a weight-loss program. Mickelson is no fatty, but he has always been a little wide. He looked positively svelte in Napa, though, and told reporters he has lost as much as 30 pounds.
“My energy level is a lot higher,” Mickelson said. “Towards the end of the round, I feel good now. I don’t feel as tired and I’m able to practice a little bit harder and not get as worn out. So all of those things lead me to being very optimistic about the upcoming year.”
It isn’t just diet. Mickelson has endeavored to change his mental state.
“I wasn’t mentally sharp or focused the last five or six months and it led to some very poor play,” he said. “I’m taking a little bit of a different route this time. I’m not going to put as many hours in, and I’m going to try to be more focused on the time I do put in and enjoy it a little more. … I’m physically able to do it, my game feels sharp, the touch is there, the elements are there and yet I haven’t been pulling it out, but I’m determined to turn that around.”