PORTRUSH, Northern Ireland — After shooting 60 in his first competitive round of the year at the Desert Classic and then winning his 44th career PGA Tour title at Pebble Beach three weeks later, Phil Mickelson had every right to be optimistic about his 28th professional season.
Six months later, he is bewildered by how it has become one of his most disappointing.
The five-time major winner was at a loss to explain the tailspin in which he's ensnared or his inability to pull out of it after he missed the cut Friday in the Open Championship at Royal Portrush. Mickelson finished at eight-over 150 after a second-round 74 on the Dunluce Links, and the Hall of Famer now has missed three cuts in a row, one shy of his career high in 1993.
Winner of the 2013 Open Championship, Mickelson last missed three straights cuts in 2007, the third in that streak coming at the Open at Carnoustie.
“I’m playing so bad that I don’t really know what to say,” Mickelson said after being limited to two rounds for the seventh time in his last 10 stroke-play starts. “I’m playing terrible golf. You know, you go through highs and lows in a career, and certainly I’m at a low.”
Mickelson said he is not overly concerned about rediscovering his form, but he admitted that this poor patch, which began in March with missed cuts at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and Players Championship, has surprised him.
“I thought after winning Pebble I was going to have a phenomenal year,” he said, "and the last four months have been surprisingly difficult.”
Rather than citing swing problems or putting struggles, Mickelson said “focus” has been his biggest problem. “I’m not seeing things clearly on the golf course.”
His next potential start could come next week at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational in Memphis, Tenn. The San Diego native finished T-2 at the 2016 FedEx St. Jude Classic, but he wasn’t sure if he would tee it up at TPC Southwind. “I’m committed right now, but I wouldn’t go past that,” he said. “I don’t know if I need some time away or if I need to play through it. I love Memphis, I love everything about the event. I don’t know.
“There’s no cut there, so that’s nice,” he added after a pause, forcing a smile.