Baby steps. If that’s what Phil Mickelson is taking to this point in 2018, then the five-time major champion believes he’s creeping up on his goal of ending a four-plus year win streak.
There was even an outside chance he would do it on Sunday at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, where he has been a fan favorite since his college days at Arizona State and is a three-time winner. The 47-year-old started his final round in a share of fifth place, then made a late move with birdies on the 15th, 16th and 17th holes to pull within two strokes of clubhouse leader Gary Woodland.
Needing an eagle 2 on the par-4 18th at TPC Scottsdale to tie for the lead at 18 under, Mickelson’s chances became highly unlikely when he pushed his tee ball into thick rough inside the left fairway bunker. The deflating drive ultimately resulted in a double-bogey 6 and a closing 69, but he still finished tied for fifth (his 11th top-10 performance in the Phoenix Open) and with some optimism.
“I think that my game’s gotten better each week, my focus is getting better each week,” said Mickelson, who was playing in the tournament for record-tying 29th time. “So I’m hoping that I continue to build on this. This shouldn’t just be a one-week deal. I should be getting better and better as the weeks go on.”
And he is. Two weeks ago in his 2018 debut at the CareerBuilder Challenge, he missed the cut. Then last week at the Farmers Insurance Open, he came in T-45.
It all makes next week’s start at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am—where Phil has won four times, most recently in 2012—more intriguing. Nobody knows better than Mickelson that he hasn't won a PGA Tour title since the 2013 Open Championship. And nobody wants to change that fact more, either.