Pinehurst: Phil Mickelson looks with optimism at defending his British Open title next month after his dream of completing a career grand slam with a US Open triumph ended in disappointment.
On the eve of his 44th birthday, the American left-hander fired a final-round 72, two-over par, on Sunday at Pinehurst to finish on seven over 287, 16 strokes behind winner Martin Kaymer of Germany in a share of 28th.
Mickelson, who has finished second at the US Open a record six times, said he remains confident he will one day win the his national championship.
"I believe in the next five years I'm going to have three or four really good chances and I do believe I will get it," Mickelson said. "I'm not upset or disappointed. I will have more chances."
Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Ben Hogan and Gene Sarazen are the only players to have won each of the four majors at least once.
"It didn't happen this week, but I feel confident it will happen in the coming years," Mickelson said. "Hopefully I'll get it done. It would be one of the great career achievements if I could get it done."
Three-time Masters winner Mickelson has not had a top-10 finish in a US PGA event this year and as he prepares to defend his crown from Muirfield next month at Hoylake, he must work upon his putting, as short putt misses doomed his hopes by the weekend even as he says other areas of his game are rounding into shape.
"I've got to get some momentum and get my game sharp for me to really have a chance at winning, and I'm going to spend the next five, six weeks seeing if I can get that to get it going to finish the year strong," Mickelson said.
"My game's slowly coming back. For me to throw five shots away each day and to easily make the cut and move up, I don't feel like I'm that far off, but I've got some work to do."
That means working on his plans to defend the Claret Jug.
"I'll start getting ready for Hoylake and I'm optimistic about the end of the year, but I'm excited about the coming years, too," Mickelson said.
"This year has been a great learning year for me as far as certain areas of my game. I haven't quite peaked with them yet, but I feel like I actually learned a few things and picked up some things for the coming years."
- No margin for error -
Mickelson saw Pinehurst, with its sandy and weedy areas in place of dense rough, as a good warm-up for the British Open challenge.
"It feels like a British Open, as brown as the fairways are, as dry as they are, as much as the ball's running, as firm as the ground is around the greens," Mickelson said.
"There's a lot of the skill set needed at the British Open that's taking place out here at Pinehurst. There's no rough, no hack it out rough, around the green, so you've seen all kind of bum shots lob shots, putts around being utilized much like an Open."
Mickelson knows there is no margin for error with players such as Kaymer finishing eight strokes clear of the field.
"You've got to put it all together to win a major championship," Mickelson said. "In this day and age, somebody's going to play well. You can't get by with scraping it around."