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The Men to Watch at Merion: No. 5, Phil Mickelson

Shane Bacon
Devil Ball Golf

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Phil Mickelson — Getty Images

This week marks the second major of 2013 and the first time the USGA has set foot on Merion Golf Club since 1981. The rough is thick, the course is wet and the yardage is under 7,000 yards. So who wins it this week? We give you five to watch at the U.S. Open.

No. 5 -- Phil Mickelson

Major Championships -- 4

U.S. Open appearance -- 23

Best U.S. Open finish -- 2nd ('99, '02, '04, '06, '09)

Best Finish on the PGA Tour in 2013 -- 1st (Waste Management Open)

What he has to do to win -- Mickelson wouldn't even be in this discussion if it wasn't for his play last week at the FedEx St. Jude Classic, where he shot 67-65-67 over the final 54 holes to finish T-2. His approach shot on the 18th hole nearly went in for an eagle, which would have definitely tightened things up for eventual-winner Harris English. But Mickelson was impressive, especially with his putter.

While Phil hasn't hit the ball that well since his win at the Waste Management (where he was a mean lip away from posting a 59), his putter has been hot for most of the season — something that will definitely be needed at Merion.

Phil didn't carry a driver last week at the St. Jude in preparation for this week, so if he can dial in those fairway woods and hit the short stuff consistently, I definitely see him being in the conversation come Sunday. He's first on tour this season in birdies and eighth in strokes gained from putting, so it's simply if he can find the fairway this week at Merion. Do that and the man with the most second place finishes in the history of the U.S. Open might finally breakthrough.


Related coverage on Yahoo! Sports:
Old school Merion to provide new U.S. Open test
Rain wreaking havoc with U.S. Open course
Tiger Woods still a big favorite to win the U.S. Open
The U.S. Open rough at Merion is very, very thick

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