Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Phil Mickelson has made it clear the U.S. Open is the tournament he most wants to win before his career is over, and this year is shaping up to be his best shot.
The six-time runner-up will turn 44 on Monday, however, meaning he is running out of true opportunities to complete a career grand slam.
There is no doubt he knows the end of his career is much closer than the beginning of it and he needs to strike now if he wants to win the trophy that has eluded him up to this point.
Mickelson got off to a solid start with Thursday's first round at Pinehurst No. 2, firing an even-round 70.
"We had an early tee time and the greens were soft. And there was some low scoring out there, some good scoring, I should say, not low," Mickelson said after his opening round. "It's a good start. I didn't hurt myself any. I had a chance to get 3-, 4-, 5-under today had I made some makeable opportunities."
Pinehurst No. 2 is a course that Mickelson believes plays to his strengths. And he is probably right.
Although the course is the third-longest to host the championship at just over 7,500 yards and Mickelson is not exactly the furthest person off the tee -- he currently ranks 75th on the PGA Tour in driving -- it's his superb short game that will help give him an edge this year.
Mickelson has always been known as one of the best short-game players in the world, which has come in necessary as he is not the most accurate with the driver. This season, he has hit the fairway with just over 58 percent of his drives.
He has always been able to recover from those errant drives with his scrambling ability, though, and that is what will help him in his third career go around Pinehurst.
The last two times Pinehurst hosted the U.S. Open, Mickelson earned the first of his six runner-up finishes in 1999 and tied for 33rd in 2005.
This year's edition of the championship will not have the usual rough we are accustomed to at the U.S. Open, and that difference should allow Mickelson to utilize his strengths.
Mickelson currently ranks 36th on tour in scrambling, but he is eighth overall in scrambling out of the rough at an impressive 63.86 percent.
That should add up to Mickelson being in prime position to collect the one win he has coveted throughout his career.
All he needs to do now is take advantage of the course that seems to be set up in a favorable way for his game.
"This golf course is a course where I get a similar feeling that I get at Augusta, where I don't have to be perfect. I can miss shots. I can miss greens and still get up and down. I always have a chance," Mickelson said. "There's not the hack-it-out-rough. It is challenging. There are difficult shots, but they're manageable and hittable if you pull them off."
Another disappointing week, however, will just make it that much harder next year as he tries to compete with a field that is steadily becoming younger and more talented than before.