Opinion: Phil Mickelson is confident he can make a run at the Masters — if he fixes his putting

AUGUSTA, Georgia – As this most unusual Masters tournament neared its midpoint, three-time champion Phil Mickelson was equal parts disgusted and thrilled.

“I’m striking the ball exceptional, and I’m putting horrific,” the 50-year-old Mickelson said after firing a 2-under-par 70 in his second round after a 3-under 69 in the opening round that stretched across Thursday afternoon and Friday morning. At 5-under, he is tied for 19th, four strokes behind a quartet of leaders, including Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas.

“If I get that fixed this weekend, I’m going to make a run.”

His wife, Amy, one of the very few people following her husband’s group – or any group — during this spectator-less Masters, knew what was coming.

“He’s going to be putting all night,” she told two reporters on his last hole Friday afternoon.

Phil Mickelson watches his shot from the third tee during the second round of The Masters on Friday. (Photo: Rob Schumacher, USA TODAY Sports)

Mickelson didn’t necessarily disagree. “I'm very frustrated and disappointed with the way I've putted. I've let eight, nine, 10 shots (get away) on the green, and it's pathetic, and I'm going to fix that and hopefully make a run. But you can't make those mistakes, give those shots up in this field, in this competition.”

Phil being Phil, there was another thought – of course.

“But we've got 36 more holes, and I'm playing well enough. I struck it well enough to keep me in it despite probably being last in the field in putting. But I'm going to get that fixed for tomorrow's round.”

Mickelson turned 50 in June, but there’s something about Augusta National’s hallowed grounds that turns the magnificent landscape into a bubbling fountain of relative youth.

Not long after Mickelson spoke, 63-year-old Bernhard Langer came by to talk to reporters and said Mickelson most definitely has another Masters win in him.

“Phil has the knowledge and Phil has the length still definitely to compete and probably to win, so it’s just a matter of can he do it four days in a row and find his best game,” Langer said.

Before we go back to Phil, let’s stop and appreciate what Langer is doing here. At 3-under after 36 holes, Langer will become the oldest player in Masters history to make the cut. He has won two green jackets in his illustrious career, but both were a long time ago now: in 1985 and again in 1993.

Like all the players here this week, Mickelson is adapting to a very different Masters. Every time he has been in front of a microphone, he has spoken about how “appreciative” he is to have the opportunity to play in this tournament in any form during the pandemic.

“It’s five, 10 times harder to put this tournament on this year than it has been in the past, and the club has worked very hard to hold this event, and we're all very appreciative,” he said. “It doesn't matter if we're teeing off on 10, 12, rain delays, whatever. We get a chance to compete for a green jacket.”

Because there are no spectators here, Mickelson said one big difference is being able to see Amy following him on every hole.

“Her energy and support means more to me than anything,” he said, “and to be able to see her out here and have her on holes that she's never been able to see before, like 12 and 13 (due to the massive galleries), is an experience of a lifetime for both of us.”

But other than that, Mickelson said he isn’t paying attention to much of anything outside the ropes this year.

“My vision is only inside the ropes,” he said.

Then he added, for laughs: “My ball is outside the ropes.”

That’s an old joke, because he is quite pleased with how he has driven the ball over the first 36 holes.

“I’m driving like a stallion,” he said, providing some examples: “Driving it over the trees on 9 all the way down to the bottom, hitting wedge into 17, wedge into 14, 5-iron both days into 2.

“I mean, I'm driving the ball very well. I'm hitting the ball great, and I'm putting awful. I've been putting well this year, and if I get this fixed for the weekend, I'm going to make a run.”

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