Phil Mickelson loves Quail Hollow Club.
Which makes his performance in the first two rounds of the 99th PGA Championship at the course that much more disconcerting.
Mickelson has seven top-five finishes in 12 appearances in the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow.
Yet Thursday and Friday, he shot an 11-over 79-74–153 to call it an early week.
Mickelson identified the mental part of the game as the culprit this week.
“It’s not like I’m hitting the ball crooked, I’m just hitting it in the wrong spots,” Mickelson said. “I’m not really controlling my thought process, where I want the ball to go. I’m not real focused out there. I’m having a tough time visualizing the shot. I’m having a tough time controlling my thoughts and not letting it wander to what I don’t want to have happen.
“On the range, I’m having some of the best sessions, swinging the club fine, striking it pretty good and yet I’m not controlling my thought process out there.”
Mickelson made the cut in his first 16 tournaments this year with 11 top-25 finishes, so he wasn’t playing that poorly.
But since splitting from his caddie of two decades, Jim “Bones” Mackay, Mickelson woefully missed the cut at the British Open with a 10-over 150, tied for 39th with a closing 67 last week in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, which doesn’t have a cut, and blew up at Quail Hollow.
He has his brother, Tim, caddying for the time being.
The lack of focus is even present on the putting green.
“If I have a short putt, it’s not a technical issue, I’m just not seeing the ball go in and staying committed,” Lefty said. “I’m just losing focus on every shot.
“I don’t feel like I did two years ago where I’m searching for my game or I’m trying to find it or trying to strike it well. I have great practice sessions. Drove it fine, just not real focused when I’m out there.”
Mickelson, a five-time major winner and the 2005 PGA Championship winner, is 47 and four years removed from his last victory in the 2013 British Open.
He is taking the next week off before the start of the FedExCup playoffs and has some work to do if he hopes to make the U.S. Presidents Cup Team, of which he has been a member for 11 consecutive events. He has played in every Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup since 1994.
He’s currently 17th in the point standings and will likely fall further back after this weekend.
“I have a week to work on it and see if I can get it dialed in,” Mickelson said.
Course record safe
Rory McIlroy has carded a pair of 1-over 72s in the first two rounds, good enough to make the cut but 10 shots off Kevin Kisner’s lead.
McIlroy has barely made the cut and won at Quail Hollow in the past. In his first PGA Tour win in 2010, McIlroy made the cut on the number then played the weekend 16 under with rounds of 66 and 62 to win.
When the two-time PGA Championship winner won his second Wells Fargo title in 2015, he carded a course-record 61 in the third round to open up a large lead.
Making up the strokes will be a lot harder this week. Thick rough and renovations over the past 15 months that have added length and created firmer greens at Quail Hollow have McIlroy’s course record safe.
“I don’t think there will be many 61s out there this week,” McIlroy said. “It’s been amazing how they’ve been able to make this course so much tougher changing to Bermuda [greens] and making the greens more firm, but it’s a stiff test.
“It was very hard to get yourself close to the hole with your approach shots. I thought it only had a half dozen birdie opportunities out there today.”
First-round co-leader Thorbjorn Olesen of Denmark is in his seventh year on the European Tour and has four wins, including one in each of the past three seasons (2014-16).
Olesen tried his hand on the PGA Tour in 2014, playing in 14 tour events including three majors and a World Golf Championship, and made six cuts with just one top 25 finish.
The 27-year-old is now considering giving the PGA tour another shot, this one possibly even more serious.
“I’ve played a lot of tournaments over here a couple of years ago, three years ago – almost a full season,” Olesen said. “. . . I’ve been over here and I would like to play more over here, definitely. I enjoy it. Always fun to play against the best guys, like the majors, the WGCs and the big PGA Tour events. That’s where you want to play. So yeah, maybe in the future I’ll try to play a bit more.”