Mickelson chases career slam

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Copy of iol spt pic Phil Mickelson AP Phil Mickelson watches his tee shot on the 13th hole during the first round of the US Open golf tournament in Pinehurst. Photo: David Goldman

Pinehurst - Reigning British Open champion Phil Mickelson's first chance to complete a career grand slam began Thursday as the 114th US Open teed off at Pinehurst.

The American left-hander, who turns 44 on Monday, has finished second in the event a record six times, the first of those runner-up efforts coming 15 years ago at Pinehurst.

Mickelson begins his quest off the 10th tee in the morning alongside a pair of Englishmen, defending US Open champion Justin Rose and 2013 US Amateur winner Matthew Fitzpatrick.

“If I can manage my game and play it smart and just focus on the shot at hand, I feel like I'll give myself a good chance,” Mickelson said.

Mickelson would join Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Ben Hogan, Gary Player and Gene Sarazen in having won all four major titles if he can end his near-miss heartache at the US Open.

“I feel like the five players that have done that have separated themselves from the other players throughout all time,” Mickelson said. “If I'm able to do that, I would look upon my own career differently. That's why it would mean so much.”

Rose, who has not won since capturing his first major title last year at Merion, is trying to become the first back-to-back US Open winner since Curtis Strange in 1988 and 1989.

“It's in the last few months I realised what I have achieved and it's time to embrace it, enjoy it, and let that be the strength for me to go on and win more,” Rose said.

Also out among the morning groups will be US prodigy Jordan Spieth, the 20-year-old who shared second at the Masters, and Japan's 22-year-old Hideki Matsuyama, who won the Memorial two weeks ago. Both are two groups behind Mickelson off the 10th tee.

Two-time major winner Rory McIlroy and two-time US Open runner-up Jason Day are among the morning starters off the first tee.

Australia's Day, coming off a thumb injury that sidelined him most of the past three months, likes his chances this week.

“I've been close in a few majors now, so close that you can almost taste it,” Day said. “It's disappointing and encouraging at the same time.

“I look at it as experience. I feel like I'll get there one day. I just have to keep giving myself the opportunities. If I can put myself there more and more and more, it's bound to happen.”

Northern Irishman McIlroy, coming off a victory last month at the European PGA Championship at Wentworth, got some advice from Nicklaus last week that he hopes will boost his chances to add to a major haul that already includes the 2011 US Open and 2012 PGA Championship.

“With the way I've been playing and how I feel my game is, I'm one of the favourites coming in here,” McIlroy said.

Afternoon starters are topped by a powerhouse group that features world number one Adam Scott, reigning Masters champion Bubba Watson and 2011 Masters winner Charl Schwartzel of South Africa.

Sapa-AFP



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