Phil Mickelson should qualify for the FedExCup playoffs. He could play his way onto the U.S. Ryder Cup team next week or be a captain's pick, although the odds of Tom Watson being impressed by the state of Mickelson's game are fading by the day.
Mickelson conceded Saturday he's running out of time to straighten things out for the rest of the season.
"I'm not sure. I'm not sure," Mickelson said. "We'll see. It would be out of nowhere for me to play well. You just never know."
Mickelson had just shot his low round of the week, a 1-under-par 69 that left him 3 over par after three rounds in the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club.
He showed no signs of breaking out of the victory drought that has now passed the one-year mark. Even as his wife, Amy, and mother battled breast cancer and he was diagnosed in 2010 with psoriatic arthritis, Mickelson hasn't gone winless since 2003.
In 16 events this year, Mickelson doesn't have a top 10. His best finishes were ties for 11th at the Wells Fargo Championship in May and the FedEx St. Jude Classic in June. His best performance in a major was a tie for 23rd at the British Open, where he was defending champion. He missed the cut at the Masters and tied for 28th at the U.S. Open. He's earned $942,375, a pittance by Mickelson standards.
"As I look back on my game right now, what has always been a strength for me is my short irons," Mickelson said. "I usually hit one or two to tap-in distance every round or make a lot of birdies.
"My short irons have been pathetic. I'm not hitting the ball close. I'm not making many birdies. I played pretty well today and I made two birdies. That's not going to cut it. I'm just not hitting my short irons close enough."
Mickelson said the birdies-per-round statistic is usually a telling indicator of his game. He's led the tour in that category twice, including last year, and finished in the top five nine times in the previous 18 years. This year, he's tied for 52nd with a 3.65 average. Only once in his career, in 1998 when he was 38th, has he had a lower average (3.59) for the year.
"I'm averaging over 90 percent with the 2-iron from the Scottish 1/8Open3/8 and British and here," Mickelson said. "If I have to get on the fairway, I can, but I'm just not hitting my short irons close."
Mickelson came down with strep throat after the British Open, but said his energy level was a lot better Saturday, a big improvement from last week.
"But even 1/8Saturday3/8, I only went after three or four shots," he said.
Asked if he's accomplishing anything leading up to this week's PGA Championship at Valhalla, Mickelson said, "I'm definitely identifying a lot of weaknesses."
"I thought I was closer than I am," he said. "1/8Saturday3/8 was a good round, but conditions are easy. Good rounds in the mid-60s and I'm barely getting under par."
Mickelson used to be a perennial contender at Firestone. From 1995-2001, he won in 1996, finished second the next three years and was never out of the top eight.
But since 2003, his best finish was a tie for fourth in 2008. He's had only three top 25s, in 2003, 2008 and last year, when he tied for 21st.
"I've always loved coming here, it's one of the best places we play on tour," said Mickelson, whose first appearance at Firestone was in 1993. "For a long time in the '90s, I played really well. The last decade, though, I've struggled here. There's nothing more to attribute it to than poor play because the golf course rewards great play and punishes bad play."
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