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The Bacon Mailbag: An all-U.S. Open edition

Shane Bacon
Devil Ball Golf
Phil Mickelson
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Can Phil Mickelson finally complete the Career Grand Slam? — Getty Images

Each week for the remainder of the golf season we will be rolling out a mailbag, with any and all questions invited from readers and fans around the world. Have a good question you want answered? Hit me up on Twitter at @shanebacon or e-mail me at shanebaconblogs@yahoo.com and we will try to get to it in the coming weeks. Here we go ...

Bacon: First, it's a huge "if" with Phil Mickelson considering how he has played this season, but he did have a fine showing this past weekend at the FedEx St. Jude Classic even if he closed with a disappointing round of 2-over 72.

Now, if Phil somehow finds something this week at Pinehurst and is able to complete his career Grand Slam he would join Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Gene Sarazen as players in the Masters era with all four major wins (Bobby Jones won his Grand Slam before the Masters).

If you had to rank Phil in that company, I think you'd put him at the bottom of the "Grand Slam winner" list for now, even with a win at Pinehurst (it would be six majors for Phil, leaving him behind all of those names in the post-Masters era, and it seems majors are the key to measuring players historically).

To me, winning the career Grand Slam immediately jumps anyone who hasn't. People will argue that it isn't fair to put someone like Phil ahead of names like Arnold Palmer and Sam Snead, but in my opinion completing the career Grand Slam is as high an achievement as someone can accomplish in golf. We focus on the four majors each season, and to be able to say you've won all four is not only incredibly tough, but incredibly impressive.

On top of all that, it would be the way Phil did it. He had a chance to win the U.S. Open in 1999, and has basically continued to be a relevant factor at this championship each year until '14, so that would speak to the longevity of his career and his ability to be relevant for multiple decades.

So I think Mickelson would leapfrog a lot of names in the pantheon of this sport if he can win one U.S. Open before he retires.

But, like I said when I started, a long way to go for Phil, who isn't exactly coming in the perennial favorite amongst the experts.

Speaking of Phil at the U.S. Open ...

Bacon: I'm assuming "pulling a Phil" is the U.S. Open version of this phrase, since the guy has been pretty clutch at all the other major championships, but I get the point considering he has the most second place finishes ever at this tournament and still hasn't been able to close it out. 

The key to "pulling a Phil" as you will is to get the lead on Sunday, play solid while holding the lead only to let it slip away at the end (see Winged Foot, Shinnecock).

I think my stock answer would be Sergio Garcia, since historically that has been his card to play on Sundays at majors, but I'm actually going to go with Bubba Watson.

Bubba has been so clutch at Augusta National the last three years, but that seems to be the one place his clutchness lives on. Since he has been on the PGA Tour, Bubba is 2-9 when holding a share of the 54-hole lead, and he's 0-5 when having the outright lead in a PGA Tour event after 54 holes. On top of that, we've already seen him lose leads at the Waste Management and the Memorial this year during the final round.

Obviously Bubba is the type that can win major championships, but his inability to close out tournaments at a consistent rate point to a possible slip on Sunday at Pinehurst if the drives start missing and he hurries those short putts like we've seen in the past.

That said, what about Bubba at Pinehurst?

Bacon: At this point, any golf course is a good track for Bubba Watson.

I did say that Bubba is at the top of my list of guys that could have this lead and lose it, but that would mean that Watson plays well enough to get the lead or close to it at Pinehurst.

Watson has almost taken driving the golf ball to a new level, leading the PGA Tour in driving distance and sitting 11th in total driving (considering he hits driver on every hole and has clubhead speed that comes in around 130 MPH, that's darn impressive).

I think Bubba is one of the most underrated putters on tour, a guy that seems to get the ball on line with each putt he hits, regardless of the outcome, and he has obviously shown that he can compete, and win, majors.

So yes, I think Pinehurst will work out fine for Bubba, and while I don't have him as my pick to win, I think he will be around the lead once Sunday evening wraps up.

Bacon: I initially wanted to go with Zach Johnson this week because of his ability to wedge the ball close, but his history at the U.S. Open is just too weak for me to take him (best finish T-30, missed the cut at half his starts at this major).

Looking a little deeper, I really like Steve Stricker this week. The 47-year-old played well at Pinehurst back in '99 (he didn't play in '05 when Pinehurst hosted the U.S. Open the last time), and he's had some success at this event over the last eight years (has finished in the top-25 in six of his last eight U.S. Open starts including a T-8 last year at Merion).

Stricker has only played in six PGA Tour events in 2014 as he promised to cut his schedule down a season ago to spend more time with his family, but he finished T-13 at TPC Sawgrass and T-6 at the Memorial, so he's definitely trending the right way.

Also, Stricker winning a major at this point in his career would be, simply put, awesome.

Bacon: Heart says Miguel, brain says Sergio, and both agree that either winning would be incredible for totally different reasons.

Also, if Jimenez wins, I'm demanding one of these dance numbers with a cigar in one hand and the trophy in the other.

Bacon: My mind initially went to Dustin Johnson, just because he has shown he can win all types of golf tournaments on different golf courses, and he's been right there at majors in the past (remember, Martin Kaymer didn't exactly light it up in that 2010 PGA Championship playoff that he won over Bubba after Dustin grounded his club to incur that two-shot penalty that left him out of that playoff, so without that mistake he would have definitely had a chance to keep up on those extra holes).

I think besides Dustin, Matt Kuchar is a guy you have to rank very high on that list, as is Brandt Snedeker, but the guy I'd put right behind Dustin is Harris English.

English is only 24, won twice on the PGA Tour last season, and seems to have that the game that you need if you want to win not just one, but two majors and beyond.

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