By Cam Huffman
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS —
Phil Mickelson is a risk-taker. That’s not exactly breaking news. It’s one of the reasons he’s a four-time Major winner and it goes a long way toward explaining why he’s one of the most popular players on the PGA TOUR.
Mickelson is about as conservative as Hillary Clinton, and golf fans love to watch shots like his unbelievable second shot out of the woods and pine straw on No. 13 during the final round of the 2010 Masters.
But Mickelson’s refusal to play any way but all-out may have cost him an opportunity to finally make the weekend at The Greenbrier Classic.
Mickelson wasn’t putting together the run of birdies that brings fans to their feet and brings about chants of “Lefty, Lefty,” but he was still just eight shots off the lead and in a solid position to make a run — and at least the cut — after today’s second round as he headed to the par-5 17th hole at even-par Thursday.
Mickelson had overcome four bogeys with an equal number of birdies, and he was in a position where, if he could just grind it out and finish the round without another bogey, he would end up somewhere on the top half of the leaderboard.
But that’s not Mickelson. He took the tee at the 616-yard Oaks hole with a look of determination in his eyes.
He pulled out his driver and swung as though he was trying to hit one across the border into Covington, Va.
Instead, he found a far less desirable destination, the creek along the left side of the fairway.
Clearly battling frustration, Mickelson couldn’t regain his composure. He took a triple-bogey 8 on the 17th and then sailed his tee shot well past the hole on No. 18.
It took him three shots to get home from there, and he ended his round with a 4-over 74 and a long look toward the top of the leaderboard.
My giving Mickelson advice about how to play golf would make about as much sense as Mickelson giving Michael Phelps advice about how to swim. I played The Old White TPC a couple weeks ago, and every inch of water was in play.
But there’s a time to be aggressive and a time to just control the damage. Mickelson missed a golden opportunity to do the latter Thursday, and it may cost the fans who had plans to be at The Greenbrier for the weekend another chance to see one of their favorite stars.