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Sunday, June 5, 2011
Lefty rounding into form for U.S. Open?


DUBLIN, Ohio -- He was never really a factor in the tournament, struggling to get much going while others were going low.

But Phil Mickelson was able to leave Muirfield Village Golf Club on Sunday with a tinge of confidence, despite a double-bogey at the final hole that ruined an otherwise perfect round.

Phil Mickelson
In his career, Phil Mickelson has five second-place finishes at the U.S. Open. That's the most in history, dating back to the first championship held in 1895.

Mickelson finished the Memorial with a 5-under-par 67 and heads to Congressional Country Club this week for more work in preparation for the U.S. Open.

"I'd love to win our national Open," Mickelson said after finishing tied for 13th at the Memorial. "I've come close five times now, five second-place finishes, which is actually a good sign in the sense that it's a course or a setup that probably nobody thought I would do well on throughout my career, and yet I've played some of my better golf at the U.S. Open.

"And I just need a few breaks here and there or maybe a few less mistakes here or there to be able to come out on top."

Mickelson could also use a few more putts to drop. He saw a few go in Sunday, needing just 24 for his round. But he had struggled on the greens prior to the final round, and suggested that is an area which continues to need work.

It was around this time a year ago when Mickelson first began to feel symptoms that were later diagnosed as psoriatic arthritis. It was a scary time, something that Mickelson expected to pass.

In retrospect, his performance at Pebble Beach, where he tied for fourth, was pretty impressive.

"At the time, I didn't think much of it, I just thought it was one of those things where you get a little ache and it'll go away," he said. "I didn't think it was anything out of the ordinary.

"I feel pretty fortunate to feel as though I'm able to practice and play [and] do most of the things, most everything I was able to do before."

Despite no victories, Mickelson's U.S. Open record is very good. Since turning pro in 1992, Mickelson has missed just two cuts and has nine top-10 finishes.

Among his closest calls, of course, was five years ago at Winged Foot, where he held a 1-shot lead standing on the 72nd tee before making a double-bogey at the final hole to miss a playoff with Geoff Ogilvy by one stroke.

Two years ago at Bethpage, Mickelson finished two strokes behind Lucas Glover.

The last time the Open was played at Congressional was 1997, when Ernie Els won. Mickelson tied for 43rd. But some of the holes have been rerouted and the putting surfaces changed.

"I feel like my game right now is really good," Mickelson said. "This whole year I've felt like it's been close. I've been playing very well tee to green, short game feels pretty good, [at least] chipping anyways. I haven't putted at the same level that I'm used to, but today was a much better day. Today was how I expected to perform on the greens."

Mickelson celebrates his 41st birthday on June 16, the first day of the U.S. Open.

Bob Harig covers golf for ESPN.com. He can be reached at BobHarig@gmail.com.