GULLANE, Scotland —
Of the 26 players who have won at least four majors, only two never won a British Open — Byron Nelson and Raymond Floyd.
Nelson played in an era when Americans rarely played in golf’s oldest championship because the prize money was so small they would lose money even if they won. Floyd skipped his share of Opens, too, for it really wasn’t until the late 1980s when hardly anyone considered not playing.
The ultimate measure of greatness is the career Grand Slam.
Five players make up the most elite class in golf — Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Ben Hogan and Gene Sarazen.
Woods won his career Grand Slam when he was 24 and had played in only 15 majors. Nicklaus and Player had all four majors when they were in their 20s. Hogan and Sarazen got theirs before the modern version of the Grand Slam even came into existence.
In that context, the last player to pick up the third leg of the Grand Slam would have been Floyd when he won the 1986 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills. By then, he was 43 and not considered a favorite to add a claret jug to his collection.
Mickelson also is 43, though the dynamics are entirely different.
For starters, he believes he is playing some of the best golf of his career, and it’s hard to doubt him. Mickelson has won three times this year, including the Phoenix Open where he missed out on a 59 by the smallest or margins, and a win last week in the Scottish Open.
And the missing link is the U.S. Open, which Mickelson always thought would be the one major he could win. It hasn’t been from a lack of effort.
Mickelson holds the U.S. Open record with six silver medals, the latest heartbreak coming only a month ago at Merion. He was poised to win until twice making bogey with a wedge in his hand.