GULLANE, Scotland —
Mickelson’s national championship has never meant more than it does now.
“I think that if I’m able to win the U.S. Open and complete the career Grand Slam, I think that’s the sign of the complete, great player,” he said. “And I’m a leg away. And it’s been a tough leg for me.”
He said that in such a way that the room erupted in laughter, with Mickelson leading the way. He is not afraid to make fun of his own shortcomings.
“I think there’s five players that have done that. And those five players are the greats of the game,” he said. “You look at them with a different light.”
The U.S. Open returns to Pinehurst No. 2 next year, a slightly different course that now features expanses of sandy waste area. It’s not quite the same as when Payne Stewart beat Mickelson by one shot with a par on the 18th hole. And don’t forget, Mickelson finished 12 shots out of the lead at Pinehurst in 2005.
True, he needs the U.S. Open to be looked upon in a different light, to join the greats of the game.
But he does not need the U.S. Open to be looked upon as a complete player. The claret jug takes care of that.
Nick Faldo has one more major than Mickelson, winning the Masters and the British Open three times each. Faldo clearly was good enough to win the other two American majors — he lost in a playoff to Curtis Strange in the 1988 U.S. Open, and finished one shot out of a playoff in the 1993 PGA Championship — but he never did.
Seve Ballesteros won the Masters and British Open. Peter Thomson has five majors, all at the British Open.
Others with at least five majors never had the four modern majors at their full disposal — players like Walter Hagen, Harry Vardon, J.H. Taylor and James Braid. Bobby Jones created the Masters but, in effect, he was retired by then and golf’s greatest amateur was never eligible for the PGA Championship.
There’s something special about winning three majors, something grand about four.
Mickelson took care of the hard part with one of greatest closing rounds in a major at Muirfield. He is not done yet.