Phil Mickelson has set his sights on the 2016 Olympics even before this year’s U.S. PGA Tour golf season ends.
“I don’t know why that’s important to me but it is,” Mickelson told reporters yesterday at New Jersey’s Ridgewood Country Club, site of this week’s Barclays playoff event. “I want to be a 46-year-old Olympian, that’s pretty cool.”
The 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro will feature golf for the first time in 112 years with the world’s top 15 men and women automatically qualifying based on their world ranking systems. Only four men per country can qualify from inside the Official World Golf Ranking’s top 15. Mickelson is currently No. 10 and the fourth-ranked American behind Jim Furyk, Matt Kuchar and Bubba Watson.
Four of the five spots behind Mickelson in the rankings are occupied by Americans; Tiger Woods (No. 11), Jordan Spieth (No. 12), Rickie Fowler (No. 13), and Zach Johnson (No. 15). A total of 60 players will compete in the 72-hole stroke-play Olympic competition. Outside of the elite 15, each competing federation can select two players to compete.
After next month’s U.S. versus Europe Ryder Cup team matches in Scotland, Mickelson said he plans to take the rest of the golf season off to focus on improving his health and play.
“Work on my fitness, work on my golf game and really focus on 2015,” the five-time major champion said. That’s “when the points start accumulating really for the Olympics. So 2015 and 2016 are years I want to really focus on and I want to make sure I’m ready come January.”
Before finishing runner-up at the PGA Championship two weeks ago, Mickelson hadn’t had a top-10 finish in his previous 17 U.S. events. He said his play at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky, where Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy edged him by one shot to win his second consecutive Grand Slam title, helped change his mindset going forward.
“The PGA was a big week for me because it was the first time this year my game was back,” he said. “I’m ready to compete again and get back into contention.”
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