It was a surprise when Phil Mickelson decided that he would play the Valero Texas Open this week, in preparation for the 2014 Masters Tournament. He hadn’t made the trek to this event in over two decades, with his last start coming in 1992. To put that in perspective, that tournament was just his 11th professional outing on the PGA Tour.
Judging by the early results, perhaps there’s a good reason why Lefty hasn’t been here in 20 years.
Mickelson shot a five-over-par round of 77 on Thursday, leaving him tied for dead last at the time of this writing. He reached nine greens in regulation, but was only able to convert two birdie attempts all day. His closing double-bogey on the ninth leaves him nine shots behind leader and fellow Arizona State alum Pat Perez.
Barring some kind of incredible comeback on Friday, it looks like Mickelson will still be in search of his first top-ten finish of 2014 when he heads to the Shell Houston Open next week. Mickelson has all the experience in the world, but certainly this can’t be the type of outing he wanted to have before major championship season kicks off in just two weeks.
The good news? Although the performance isn’t really there right now, there also shouldn’t be too much in the way of expectation. Not only did Mickelson commit late, but he hadn’t even played the course at TPC San Antonio until Wednesday. The Greg Norman–Sergio Garcia design is known to be one of the tougher tests on Tour, so there will probably be plenty of other players getting their pound of flesh taken by week’s end.
Also, we have to remember that when it comes to the Masters, it’s still Phil and it’s still Augusta National. There isn’t a course out there where you can truly “prepare” for what it takes to win at Augusta, and Mickelson has shown he’s got “it” when he needs it.
Need proof? You need look no further than 2010. That year, Mickelson struggled a bit, earning just one top-ten at Pebble Beach before the Masters.
He also took home his third career green jacket.