Originally posted on Taking Bad Schotz  |  Last updated 6/12/13
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PGA Tour tournaments the week before a major usually fields no-names and guys who have never won on tour, especially not major champions. But this past weekend at the FedEx St. Jude Classic was a bit different. Photo Credit: Associated Press A four-time major champion and 41-time winner on the PGA Tour was not only in the tournament, but at the top of the leaderboard. His name: Phil Mickelson. That’s right. Instead of going to Merion, site of this week’s U.S. Open, to see the course and play a few practice rounds, he was in Memphis, TN at TPC Southwind trying to get some confidence back and win his first tournament since early February. That may not sound like a long time, but for a guy who’s won four majors and whose “rival”, Tiger Woods, has already won four times this year, a win would’ve meant a lot more. Things didn’t get off to the best of starts as he finished round one five shots behind the leader at one-over par. Friday didn’t start off well either. Mickelson parred the first five holes before birdieing the sixth and parring the next three to finish the front nine one-under. That’s good by most players’ standards, but not by Lefty’s and he started the back nine with a bang, birdieing the par four tenth. After a bogey at twelve and a par at thirteen, he flipped the switch, birdieing two of the final five holes to finish with a 67, but still remained well out of the lead, eight shots back. He got off to a bad start again in the third round, bogeying the first but picked it up, going birdie-eagle the next two. After birdies at six and eight, he finished the front in unresounding fashion by bogeying the ninth. Even with two bogeys, he shot a 32 front nine. He was pretty average on holes ten through thirteen, parring all four before only parring one the rest of the way. Mickelson wrapped up his round with a birdie-bogey-birdie-par-birdie finish. He not only moved up the leaderboard with the 65 but cut his deficit from eight to five. With five shots to make up, his chances were small but he wasn’t giving up. He birdied the third, but went even-par the rest of the front nine. After a bogey at eleven, it looked over but third-round leader Shawn Stefani was falling apart, and new leader Scott Stallings was four-under through eleven to give himself a five-shot lead over playing partner Phil Mickelson. Mickelson started to climb back with birdies at fourteen and sixteen. Stallings helped out with a double bogey at fifteen to pull Mickelson to only two shots behind the leader. Harris English was also lurking in the final group and after a birdie at sixteen he was tied with Stallings at eleven-under, one in front of Mickelson. After Mickelson and Stallings parred seventeen, both were thinking birdie at eighteen with English two holes behind them. Mickelson hit the shot of the tournament from the fairway at eighteen when he almost holed out for eagle. He settled for birdie and when Stallings bogeyed, Mickelson still had a chance at a possible playoff until English birdied seventeen to take a commanding two-shot lead with only eighteen standing in his way. English finished up with a par to win his first career PGA Tour tournament. The biggest story though was Phil Mickelson getting his mojo back after a missed cut a month ago at THE PLAYERS Championship. This was only Mickelson’s fourth top-15 finish this year, but it couldn’t have come at a better time. When most of the top players decided to take the week off to prepare for the U.S. Open, Mickelson may have made the best decision, playing well in a tournament that mattered and taking some momentum into the greatest test of the year, the U.S. Open. The 113th U.S. Open will open up play Thursday at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, PA. -O’Shea
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