Frank Nobilo: ‘Mickelson Comes Into This With Worst-Ever Form’

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PINEHURST, NC - JUNE 10: Phil Mickelson of the United States hits a tee shot during a practice round prior to the start of the 114th U.S. Open at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club, Course No. 2 on June 10, 2014 in Pinehurst, North Carolina. (Photo by Tyler Lecka/Getty Images)

Phil Mickelson (Credit: Tyler Lecka/Getty Images)

Phil Mickelson has won the PGA Championship, he’s won the Open Championship, and he’s won the Masters (three times, actually).

But he’s never won the U.S. Open.

There’s certainly no shame in that. After all, only five golfers – Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Tiger Woods – have ever achieved the modern grand slam in their careers.

But Mickelson has finished runner-up in this event an agonizing six times.

He enters Pinehurst this week under much scrutiny – partially because he’s the target of an FBI probe and partially because he’s tinkering with his swing and putting grip.

“He comes into this with his worst-ever form,” Golf Channel analyst Frank Nobilo said on The John Feinstein Show. “I know he’s putting the time in. He was here a couple of days last week. He’s even spending Wednesday on property, which is unusual for him at a major championship. So he is trying everything.”

That’s because this could be the most important tournament of his career. Mickelson, who turns 44 next week, knows his window for grand-slam immortality is closing.

“I think he can do what great athletes do, which is put yourself in that right mindset that a lot of the other (great) players (have),” Nobilo said. “Jack Nicklaus would always say (that) nice guys beat themselves before they even tee it up on Thursday of a major championship. I think Phil can probably eliminate two-thirds of the field with that attitude, knowing that he would prepare probably the right way for this weekend. He would at least have an idea of how to play the type of game that’s required here. But can he get the pitch? That’s the big thing.”

Mickelson intends to use a claw putting stroke this week to better control the tricky greens at Pinehurst.

“It’s the antithesis of how Tiger Woods would prepare for a major championship,” Nobilo said. “And he obviously has been the most successful certainly in this era of collecting them. It’s not a clinical way of going about it. It’s not even really a Phil way of going about it – because Phil wouldn’t be on property this Wednesday. He’d be relaxing, he’d be playing somewhere else and his mind would be ready. But he’s out there laboring, toiling around the green, almost trying to extract every little bit to say, ‘Maybe I can win this with my best stuff.’ And that part’s admirable. Don’t get me wrong. But I just haven’t seen the spark.”

Mickelson is yet to record a top-10 finish this season.

“I don’t know what it is,” Nobilo said. “I don’t know if it’s the pending litigation, but there’s just something that’s taken away the spark this year.”

John Feinstein hates asking guests to pick winners at majors – mainly because it’s impossible – but is there anyone Nobilo has his eye on a bit?

“One of the players they’re not talking about – I’m not saying he’s going to win it – (is) Jason Dufner,” Nobilo said. “If you look at this golf course, the fairways might have been widened, but it’s actually a better driving course because it means that there’s decisions to be made (as to which club to use on the fairways). It’s deciding what you really think is the best strategy – and Dufner is so economical tee-to-green.”

“Even though the fairways are wider,” Nobilo continued, “it’s still about hitting in the middle of the green and who’s going to make a lot of 15-to-25-footers? It’s really hard to hit the ball close here.”

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