WHAT MICKELSON WANTS MOST

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Nothing would please Phil Mickelson more than to win next month’s United States Open – and for at least two good reasons.

Nothing would please Phil Mickelson more than to win next month’s United States Open – and for at least two good reasons.
It would be his first major since linking up with Tiger Woods’ former coach Butch Harmon and it would also give him the chance to expunge for ever his nightmare finish in the event a year ago.
More than anything, it was Mickelson’s wild drive and closing double bogey at Winged Foot after he had stood on the tee one ahead and in sight of a third successive major triumph that led to his parting company with Rick Smith last month.
So far under Harmon the left-hander has played twice and been third twice – encouraging signs.
But even if Oakmont in five weeks’ time proves a big letdown, Tom Lehman, Mickelson’s Ryder Cup captain last September, believes smooth swinging left-hander shouldn’t allow that to phase him and that there should be no rush to make a judgment on the 36-year-old’s attempts to reignite his career.
“Phil should have four or five really good years ahead of him,” said Lehman.
“Butch brings with him three things – great knowledge, great attitude and a bit of history.
“He knows the game and all the intangibles. Everybody needs to find what works best for them and sometimes a change is good.
“Everyone goes through peaks and troughs and Phil is all about enthusiasm – as Jack Nicklaus was. It’s almost like it’s down to biorhythms. There are times when you really want to work and times when you just can’t get going.”
Mickelson has described his Ryder Cup performance – scoring just half a point from all five sessions in the record-equalling defeat – as every bit as disappointing as his US Open self-destruction, but it was no surprise to some.
After Winged Foot he did not manage another top-10 finish all year and his inner drive was such that he did not even play another tournament after returning home from Europe.
Gradually, though, the batteries were recharged and he felt ready to put in the necessary hours – first on his physical condition, then on the mechanics of his game. And that is where Harmon came in.
The 63-year-old, son of 1948 Masters champion Claude Harmon, briefly played the US Tour from 1969-71, winning the Broome County Open in his last season, but then concentrated on coaching like his brothers Craig and Bill.
He can certainly tell Mickelson all about Winged Foot if ever they go back there because that is where his father was head professional and he can certainly also tell him all about the golf swing because few understand it better. In 2003 he was ranked the top golf teacher in the United States in a poll of his peers.
Harmon worked with Greg Norman as he climbed to the world number one spot and he then formed with Woods a partnership that brought eight majors, including the “Tiger Slam” of all four in a row, before they split in 2002.
“We had a great time together. I saw the greatest golf I’ve ever seen in my life out of one person with him in 2000, something we may never see again,” he said.
But Harmon moved on and had no fewer than seven clients at the Masters three years after the split –
Adam Scott, Fred Couples, Stewart Cink, Justin Leonard, Darren Clarke, Jose Maria Olazabal and Steve Flesch.
“I don’t charge any of them, that way I’m the boss,” he commented.
“I tell them at the end of the year if they feel they’ve had a good year, they can write me a cheque. If they don’t want to that’s fine too.”
Woods, who began working with Hank Haney, had to wait almost three years for his next major win after the split, but after it came at the 2005 Masters three more quickly followed, taking him to second place in the all-time list with 12.
Mickelson is on three, but as Lehman says: “There are lots of players who should have asterisks against their names (to show they competed in the Tiger Woods era). How many majors would Ernie Els have won, for example?”
What total Harmon can take Mickelson to remains to be seen. And how long he is with him remains to be seen too.
“I always tell my students in my golf school this,” Harmon commented once. “The best thing about you coming here is that when you play badly you can blame me.
“Don’t feel like you’re going to hurt my feelings because I took two players to number one in the world and they both fired me!”
Mickelson says, though, that he is excited about what the future may hold.
“His knowledge of the game and the golf swing and his ability to identify faults and give the cure right away is probably what makes Butch – as well as many other top teachers, Rick Smith and Hank Haney and David Leadbetter and Jim McLean.
“All those guys have a great eye for the golf swing and can pick those things out. Each one has a different view, kind of a different point of view and all of those things.
“It’s going to be a learning process. It’s more than just a swing change, it’s understanding what allows the ball to go straighter and so forth and how to do it. It’ll take me a little time.
“We’re only a few weeks in. You’ve got to give me a chance.”
From Mark Garrod, PA Sport Golf Correspondent

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