Going into every golf season, I know for a fact that I have three solid column topics — the Masters, the U.S. Open and the British Open. I usually try to include an interesting historical tidbit, tie it in locally somehow, or personalize it in some way. But this week, I’m doing something different.
I’m making a prediction.
Let me stress one very important point: I am very good at picking sporting event outcomes ... incorrectly. Not that I would ever promote anything illegal, but I seem to recall a conversation with my friend Geno that went something along the lines of:
Geno: “Junior, how fast do those online betting sites pay out when you win?”
Me: “I don’t know, I’ve never won.”
Geno: “Well then why the hell do you bet?!”
So please, please, please keep in mind that this is simply a prediction based on gut instinct and nothing else: Phil Mickelson is going to win the U.S. Open at Pinehurst next week and complete the career Grand Slam.
I know that may seem crazy considering the fact Mickelson hasn’t recorded a top 10 all year. But in my opinion, I think everything is lined up for him. Here’s why:
I’ve never played a course where every shot matters more than Pinehurst No. 2. The green complexes are so crowned and convoluted that the approach shots into the greens are changed significantly based on yardage and angle.
Meaning, just hitting the fairway isn’t good enough. Coming into the green from the right angle and distance in the fairway makes a huge difference. This is good news for someone with experience and knowledge.
No one has more of that at Pinehurst than Mickelson. And I’ll give him an extra bump here because of his caddy’s experience as well.
As mentioned above, the green complexes at Pinehurst are unlike anywhere else. The terms we’re going to hear all week are “crowned” and “upside down saucers.” And they are.
As a fan, it’s going to be great watching the best players in the world struggle with the nuances of Pinehurst’s famous greens. But as a competitor, it’s going to take imagination and trust in one’s short game to win.
So who has Mickelson been spending time with the last two weeks, according to reporters? Dave Pelz, his world-renowned short game instructor. When it comes to getting up and down, I’ll take Mickelson this week.
Mickelson has come in second place six times in the U.S. Open. Crushing defeats, yes. Grand Slam preventer, never before. Only five golfers have won golf’s career grand slam (Masters, U.S. Open, British Open, PGA Championship).
Up until last year, Mickelson had only won two, The Masters and the PGA. If you watched Mickelson’s interviews after last years’ British Open, I don’t think he even thought he’d ever with the British. But he did in 2013, which means he’s now only one U.S. Open victory from joining that Mount Rushmore of golf. And he wants it.
Now obviously “if wanting made it so ... ” he’d already be a U.S. Open champion. But it’s now more for him than before, and I think that means something.
In the summer of 1999, Mickelson was expecting his first child. He was playing in the U.S. Open at Pinehurst with a beeper in case wife Amy went into labor. In what was certainly one of golf’s greatest finishes, Payne Stewart holed a 15-foot putt on the last green to beat him by one shot. I’ll never forget watching Payne grab Mickelson’s face and, on Father’s Day, comfort him with the reminder that; “You’re going to be a dad.”
Just a few months later Payne Stewart was dead. Fifteen years later, the U.S. Open returns to Pinehurst. Today there’s a bronze statue of Payne in his famous celebration stance next to the 18th green at Pinehurst.
If Mickelson had won 15 years ago it would have been a good story. But if he wins this year, completes the career grand slam at the same course where he had his first real crushing U.S. Open defeat in front of the Stewart statue celebrating that very same defeat — now that’s one heck of a story.
And not that I checked or anything, but as of last week Mickelson was 17-1. Enjoy The U.S. Open at Pinehurst!
Jonah Karzmer is a former golf professional who writes a golf column for The Vindicator. In his spare time he sells commercial insurance for The Karzmer Insurance Agency and loves getting feedback on his weekly columns via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.