He would be the slowest to do it by a massive margin, but Phil Mickelson could not care less as long as he eventually completes the career Grand Slam.
Only Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods have won all four major titles in their careers – an exclusive club Mickelson now has the chance to join.
The 43-year-old’s victory in the Open Championship thanks to a brilliant final round of 66 at Muirfield means he has completed three legs of the Grand Slam with wins in the Open, Masters and USPGA Championship.
Only the US Open has somehow escaped his grasp, with last month’s second place to Justin Rose at Merion extending his own record of runners-up finishes to six.
Assuming he plays in the USPGA Championship next month and the Masters next April, his first chance to complete the Grand Slam in the US Open will be in his 87th major appearance. It will also be at Pinehurst – scene of his first runners-up finish in the event in 1999.
Sarazen was the slowest to win his Grand Slam, needing 40 events from 1922 to 1935 compared to 18 for Nicklaus and just 15 for Woods, but he did have the excellent excuse of the Masters not even existing until 1934.
“I think that if I’m able to win the US Open and complete the career Grand Slam, I think that that’s the sign of the complete great player,” said Mickelson, who kept one hand on the Claret Jug at all times during his press conference.
“I’m a leg away. And it’s been a tough leg for me! Those five players are the greats of the game. You look at them in a different light. If I were able to ever win a US Open, and I’m very hopeful that I will . . .”
Mickelson did not complete the thought, but his caddie Jim Mackay has no doubt the left-hander will never stop trying to win. “He looks forward. He works hard,” Mackay said. “How many people are going to build a practice facility in his yard post-40? He wants it.
“He’s stronger than he’s ever been, he’s fitter than he’s ever been, and he’s hungrier than he’s ever been. When he’s 60-something years old he’s going to be on the putting green at Augusta thinking he has a chance. That’s just how he is built.” Five weeks ago Mickelson took a one-shot lead into the final round at Merion, on his 43rd birthday, only to stumble to a closing 74 and finish two shots behind Rose.
He spoke then of the “heartbreak” he would always associate with the US Open unless he could win one eventually, but bounced back to win the Scottish Open at Castle Stuart the week before his triumph at Muirfield.
“It’s a huge difference in emotions, as you can imagine,” he added. “Being so down after the US Open, to come back and use it as motivation, to use it as a springboard, knowing that I’m playing well and to push me a little bit extra to work harder; to come out on top, in a matter of a month to turn it around it really feels amazing.
“I thought that it could go either way. You have to be resilient in this game because losing is such a big part of it. And after losing the US Open, it could have easily gone south, where I was so deflated I had a hard time coming back. But I looked at it and thought I was playing really good golf. I had been playing some of the best in my career. And I didn’t want it to stop me from potential victories this year, and some potential great play. And I’m glad I didn’t, because I worked a little bit harder and in a matter of a month I’m able to change entirely the way I feel.”