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SPOTLIGHT
Mickelson pulling for rain

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Mickelson pulling for rain

Published on -6/11/2014, 10:00 AM

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By Teddy Greenstein

McClatchy-Tribune

PINEHURST, N.C. -- Every Phil Mickelson pre-major news conference has a "Say what?!" moment.

Before the Masters, Mickelson declared that he almost never has shots of 90-130 yards, so why bother carrying a sand or gap wedge?

It was in keeping with his rep as the game's Great Tinkerer, or is it Great Overthinker?

"I've done some crazy stuff," Mickelson acknowledged Tuesday. "I've won majors with two drivers, one driver and no drivers."

As he then noted, he also has lost majors while trying to turn tournament golf into metaphysics.

For Mickelson, simple is boring. And he hates boring.

Asked whether he had analyzed his close calls in U.S. Opens, Mickelson replied: "The one analysis I've made is that of those six second-place finishes, five of them it rained."

Cue to a room full of reporters chuckling. Deep stuff there, Einstein.

But he was serious.

"I'm pulling for rain," he said. "I feel like if it rains this week, it will be much more difficult for guys to putt from off the green. And it will force them to chip."

Chipping into wet greens, Mickelson surmised, can be hazardous to a player's health. A skidding ball loses spin and is tough to control. Mickelson said he has a "little bump chip" to combat that.

"And when it rains, it's also more difficult to putt because you see the rooster tail of the water, you see grass grab onto the ball," he said. "So I'm hoping it rains."

There's a 60 percent chance for thunderstorms at Pinehurst on Thursday, 40 percent Friday, 30 percent Saturday and 40 percent Sunday -- as if Mickelson did not have those percentages memorized.

Mickelson also plans to tinker with his putting, which has been dreadful this season. We're talking Lee Westwood territory. He ranks 103rd in "strokes gained" on the PGA Tour. He's actually below the Mendoza line, giving up one putting stroke to the field for every eight rounds played.

Last season he finished sixth, gaining two strokes on the field for every three rounds.

"He has to somehow... come up with a different putter or a different technique that makes him feel like he has found the holy grail, so to speak, if he's going to have a chance to win at Pinehurst," NBC analyst Johnny Miller said. "Because the way he has been putting, he has got no chance."

Fighting words? Nope.

"He's absolutely right," Mickelson said. "I should have won last week by eight shots."

Unsatisfied with his roll at the St. Jude Classic in Memphis, Tenn., Mickelson reverted to a "claw" grip -- bottom hand resting against the shaft -- in the final round.

"I was running them way by last week, and the greens here are quick," he said. "By taking my bottom hand off the putter, it allows me to roll the ball softly into the hole. Ultimately I'll go back to a regular grip. But for now, it helps me get the feel and flow back."

Sure, makes sense. The only surprise is that Mickelson, a natural right-hander who famously plays left-handed, does not carry a blade that allows him to switch-hit based on the break.

By winning this week, Mickelson would become the sixth player in golf history to capture a career Grand Slam. To accomplish that, he'll stick to his Phil-osophy.

"You have to take some risks sometimes," he said. "If it comes out great, perfect. And if it doesn't, I'm fine living with my own bad decisions."

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