Phil Mickelson smiles after finishing a practice round Tuesday for the PGA Championship at Valhalla Country Club. (Reuters)
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Phil Mickelson, who has endured a disappointing season by his usual lofty standards, will have the Ryder Cup in mind while he competes in this week’s PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club.
The American left-hander is not assured of a place in Tom Watson’s team to take on Europe in Gleneagles, Scotland from Sept. 26-28 and he needs to climb into the top nine in the U.S. point standings by Sunday to earn automatic selection.
Mickelson, who occupies the 10th spot, has not won on the PGA Tour since the 2013 British Open but is confident he can ride the momentum built by his stunning final-round 62 at last week’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.
“I’m not to that point yet,” Mickelson, 44, told reporters when asked if he would bank on getting one of U.S. captain Watson’s three wildcard picks for the Ryder Cup. “I’ve got five more days here.
“I really do believe that after the way I played on the weekend, I’ll continue that play into this week. I’m confident that I’ll get on the team on my own and won’t require that pick. I want to keep that streak going of two decades that I have. I want to keep that going of making the team on my own and not needing a pick.”
The five-time major champion has played in every Ryder Cup since he made his debut for the United States in 1995, competing on winning teams in 1999, at Brookline, and in 2008, at Valhalla.
This season has been a curious one for Mickelson, who has missed three cuts on the PGA Tour in 17 starts while not recording a single top-10 finish, but his 62 on Sunday has transformed his mindset.
“It’s a really good thing for me to get that kind of momentum from one round,” said the American, who has won 42 PGA Tour events during his Hall of Fame career.
“The way the pieces fell together, I started to roll the ball well, wedge play started to get good, short irons got better and just two days prior, it was horrific. So it was an important day for me to get some momentum.”
Mickelson was wary, though, of placing too much emphasis on just one round.
“I’m interested to see how it goes (today), Friday but certainly my confidence level and my practice sessions are totally different,” said the Californian, who won the 2005 PGA Championship at Baltusrol. “I don’t feel like I’m searching.
“I feel like I’m just trying to now acquire that same feel from Sunday, and I feel like I’ve found what I’m looking for. I just have to maintain it.”