Phil Mickelson said he’s not sure how he’ll play this week as he continues his quest to become the top-ranked golfer in the world for the first time in his career.
“I don’t know exactly where my game is,” Mickelson said at a news conference at Ridgewood Country Club in Paramus, New Jersey, to promote the Barclays, the U.S. PGA Tour’s first playoff event. “I didn’t play well in Europe. I’ve had two weeks off, so I haven’t really played great golf in six or seven weeks.”
Mickelson, who is No. 2 behind Tiger Woods in the Official World Golf Rankings, will be paired with Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy in two days for the opening round of the World Golf Championships Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio. Woods is paired with England’s Lee Westwood, who is ranked third.
A win by Mickelson would move him to No. 1 and end Woods’s record 270 straight events atop the rankings. He’s led for a total of 612 weeks. Mickelson also can overtake Woods by finishing as low as fourth at Firestone, though that would also depend on how Woods and Westwood fare.
Westwood will become No. 1 if he wins and Woods finishes anywhere worse than a two-way tie for second. If Westwood finishes alone in second, he’ll also move atop the rankings if Mickelson does not win and Woods finishes outside the top nine.
Mickelson, 40, in April won his third Masters Tournament. He followed that with a second-place finish at the Quail Hollow Championship, leaving him in position to end Woods’s run as the world’s top-ranked golfer at the Players Championship by claiming victory with Woods finishing outside the top five. Mickelson could only manage a tie for 17th as Woods withdrew with a neck injury during the final round.
Another chance for Mickelson to pass Woods, at the Crowne Plaza Invitational, ended with a missed weekend cut. He also tied for fifth at the Memorial Tournament, tied for fourth at the U.S. Open, missed the cut at the Scottish Open and tied for 48th at the British Open, entering each tournament with a chance to climb to No. 1 after the final round.
Asked today whether a No. 1 ranking means a lot to him, Mickelson responded, “Absolutely, it does.”
“It would be a very important thing, but again, it’s not something I’m focusing on as I am trying to get my game sharp for these upcoming events as well as the playoffs.”
The Barclays, the first of four PGA Tour playoff events, begins Aug. 26. The FedEx Cup playoffs conclude Sept. 26 at the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta. Barclays Plc is a sponsor of Mickelson.
Woods has won the Bridgestone Invitational seven times and is the defending champion as he seeks his first title since stepping away from the game following an admission of marital infidelity. Both he and Mickelson will be in the field for next week’s PGA Championship at Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wisconsin. Mickelson tied for sixth the last time the event was held at Whistling Straits in 2004, while Woods finished tied for 24th.
“It has been a fun year because of the Masters win,” he said. “If I were able to win the PGA, that would take a year that’s been special and memorable and make it one of the best years of my career”.
Mickelson, who has four major titles and 38 career victories on the U.S. PGA Tour, has been trying to join Vijay Singh and David Duval as the only players to unseat Woods since he first earned the No. 1 ranking in 1998.
Mickelson also won the Masters in 2004 and 2006, and claimed the PGA Championship in 2005 at Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, New Jersey.
Mickelson’s made $59.1 million in career earnings on the tour and is second to Woods as the top-earning U.S. athlete, having made $61.6 million in tournament purses and endorsements in the last year, according to a Sports Illustrated study released last month.