AKRON, Ohio -- After finishing Saturday's round at the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational 3 strokes over par, Phil Mickelson had counted himself out. He said his game might not even be ready for the Ryder Cup in late September.
Turned out it would be ready in time for lunch the following day.
Mickelson shot a 62 in Sunday's final round at Firestone Country Club to jump 29 spots on the leaderboard and finish in a tie for 15th place with a 5-under 275.
"You know, I really thought after the Scottish and the British, my game was really close to clicking," Mickelson said. "And then the first two rounds here came, and I don't know what to say. I don't know what happened. It was just terrible."
Mickelson shot a 1-over 71 on Thursday before a 3-over 73 on Friday had him feeling like he needed time to regroup. Part of it was dealing with an illness that Mickelson joked he acquired from giving too many high-fives. The thumbs up would be his new congratulatory gesture. Walking toward the 18th green at 5 under, Mickelson flashed a thumbs up to the crowd.
"When you feel like you're close, all you need is for it to just click one day, and all of a sudden, you're off and running," Mickelson said.
It became evident that Mickelson might have been clicking again when he hit the first two fairways and birdied the first three holes of the round.
Mickelson had stated throughout the tournament that his iron play was the problem and that he wasn't giving himself opportunities for birdies due to poor approaches.
On Sunday, Mickelson's 10 birdies were set up by a resurgence in his iron game that was long-awaited by the big lefty.
"Today it kind of came together," Mickelson said. "I started hitting the ball the right distance with my irons. I had much better control. I had the right spin, the right trajectory, and ended up making those putts and had 10 birdies today."
Mickelson's sharp game and resulting confidence culminated in a couple of risky shots on 18 that saved a par after a tough drive.
Mickelson's drive off the tee landed in the rough to the right of the fairway, resting up against the roots of a pine tree. Rather than punching out, Mickelson aggressively elected to chip over the root and go for the green. His shot landed about 20 feet off the green, where Mickelson again elected an aggressive, high pitch that left him five feet from the pin to save par.
"Well, it was 175 yards," Mickelson said of his second shot. "So if I try to hit like a 9 or an 8 iron, the speed that I would have had to go into that ball, I probably could have gotten hurt. I took a hybrid so I just had to chip it, just an easy little strike."
Figuring things out couldn't have come at a better time for Mickelson, heading into the PGA Championship at Valhalla in Louisville, Ky., this week, the last major championship event of the year, before gearing up for the Ryder Cup in September.
Mickelson entered the day 10th in the U.S. Ryder Cup standings, one position shy of an automatic qualifying bid. Mickelson's late surge at Bridgestone not only increases his likelihood of qualifying, but gives him the confidence needed for the home stretch as well.
"Certainly, my confidence heading into the PGA is astronomically higher than it was 24 hours ago, and I feel like heading into Thursday's round that I'm not searching to find something, that I have what I'm looking for," he said. "I just have to maintain it and put together mentally a good four solid rounds."
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