Phil Mickelson looking forward to time off: Time to take him on at the Fortinent Championship?

The veteran spent much of his pre-first round press conference eyeing up rest and recuperation.

It's been an odd summer for Phil Mickelson.

A magnificent boom with a lot of bust either side.

His victory in the PGA Championship was one for the ages - the middle ages to be exact.

At 50 he became the oldest Major Champion and he achieved it in typical style - on the longest Major Championship track ever presented.

But in his other 10 starts from May to August? Nine failures to breach the top 60. A lot of hard work for very little reward.

Chatting ahead of his first start in the 2021/22 season, in the Fortinet Championship at Silverado, the Californian sounded a little wary - and a little weary too.

"We're all wanting to get the season started off on a good foot and hopefully play well," he said.

"I just love playing, although I am looking forward to some time off. So I'll play here and then have three months off."

As we'll see later, the North Course at Silverado is, in theory, a great fit for Mickelson. It's also easy to suspect that he's exhausted and seeing this is as a little mini-break ahead of complete shutdown.

"The course is firm, fast, challenging," he said. "It's fun and easy, the facilities are good, and the wives have a great time going to the vineyards."

Let's take a closer look at his chances this week.

Mickelson in California on poa annua

The 51-year-old is a San Diego native and has never hidden his pleasure at playing in his home state and specifically on the putting surfaces. "A lot of guys struggle with the poa annua greens, which is a grass that I grew up playing so I'm very comfortable on the greens," he said at this event. "When you grow up and spend most of your time back east in Florida on the bermuda, this is a very awkward surface to putt on."

In 65 starts on Californian poa in the 21st century he's landed 26 top 10s, 20 of them top fives, with eight wins.

But beware: since winning the 2019 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am he's made 11 starts in these conditions and his only top 30 finish was then third on defence of that title.

Mickelson at Silverado

As noted above, the course should suit. When winning two years ago Cameron Champ admitted that he took the course on from the tee, knowing that the rough was not a problem. Ideal for attacking Mickelson.

And then there is the importance of Scrambling: every winner here has ranked top seven for saving par. Perfect for Mickelson's superb short game.

He finished tied eighth on debut in 2016, was tied third a year later, T17th in 2018, but then missed the cut in 2019 and was T44th last year.

He's struggled from the tee, four times losing shots in SG Off the Tee and never ranking top 40 in the field.

He's also rarely thrived with his short game. True, he ranked fourth last year, but it was his first top 30 in five tries.

He has, however, putted well. In his first four visits he always needed less than 1.70 Putts per Green in Regulation and in his first three visits always made more than three strokes on the field with the putter.

Mickelson's form

Since winning the PGA Championship in such stunning style in May it hasn't gone so well.

He's made eight starts and landed only one finish in the top 60, when T17th at the St Jude Invitational.

He hasn't scrambled well in that period (never top 30) and has only twice gained more than one stroke on the greens.


Feeling bold? Can he revive those early course feelings and the magic of May? He's rated:

But more realistically, the poor form, declining Californian record and the stats suggest taking him on.

In four of his last six laps he has not broken 72 and had hasn't gone sub-70 in his last two visits to Silverado.

His first round three ball includes Cameron Champ who has gone sub-70 in his last five rounds at the course and whose last six first rounds bettered 72.

They are up against Kevin Tway whose last seven first rounds have bested 72 and who has always bettered that number on Thursday at Silverado.

Champ would be the pick.

A Ryder Cup tale

Next week Mickelson will join Team USA as a vice-captain and he talked about a moment that reveals to him what is required in the role.

"I remember on the 18th hole at Memorial, in the Presidents Cup in 2013. It was coming down the last match and we're tied. I'm playing with Keegan Bradley, alternate shot. He's up ahead of me walking with Captain Couples and I hit one in there about 12-feet.

"Keegan's nervous and Fred puts his arm around him and says, 'Isn't this the best? Like this is the best moment, this is what we want, the position we're wanting to be in, isn't this fun?'

"Keegan, you could see him just kind of breathe again. Then Graham DeLaet holed a chip shot right in front of him and Keegan knocks it right on top of him for a tie. There's been a lot of great captains, but that's an example of where a captain can make a difference on a player's emotional state. Great job by Freddie."

READ MORE: Ryder Cup betting: is the market a good indicator for the showdown at Whistling Straits?

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