Sobel: Story lines begin and end with Phil
Posted June 11
Pinehurst, N.C. — There is never a shortage of story lines ahead of the U.S. Open, and with Tiger Woods still nursing his ailing back, top billing in 2014 falls to Phil Mickelson, according to GolfChannel.com Senior Writer Jason Sobel said.
"It all starts and ends with Phil Mickelson," Sobel told Mark Thomas and Mike Maniscalco Wednesday on 620 AM The Buzz. "For him to come back here 15 years after Payne Stewart held him up by the cheeks...on the same course, it's like a Hollywood script you wouldn't believe because it's too unrealistic."
When Stewart sank his statue-inspiring putt on the 72nd hole in 1999, denying Mickelson a chance at a Monday playoff, no one would have guessed it would begin a mind-numbing run of miserable endings for Phil at the U.S. Open.
He's finished second in the Open five times since.
Sobel said he doesn't expect an ongoing insider trading investigation linked to Mickelson to impact the 43-year-old's play at No. 2.
"I don't think the insider trading investigation is going to bother him that much," he said. "He dealt with it last summer while winning the British Open. The ghosts of U.S. Opens past and trying to avenge the six runner-up finishes are weighing more on his mind right now."
A win this week would give Mickelson a career grand slam, a feat accomplished by only five players in the Masters era – Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Ben Hogan, Gary Player and Gene Sarazen.
As for the course Mickelson and others will tackle beginning Thursday morning, Sobel said the set up of the course will likely mean long rounds.
"We will see some long rounds this week because players are going to be so careful," he said. "They want players to strategize, to think about it a little bit. There is no way you can set up the course this way and expect players to play in three and a half hours."
Sobel said he expects a steady, "boring" player to win the 114th Open.
"Webb Simpson and Justin Rose are boring players, and they have won the last two, so there is nothing wrong with that," he said. "They never get too excited. Jason Dufner, Luke Donald and Matt Kuchar (Sobel's pick), they sort of fit that U.S. Open mold."