CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Phil Mickelson managed a quick smile and a tip of the cap to the crowd after his second round at the PGA Championship. There was no denying the frustration on his face.
"Atrocious," Mickelson said a few minutes later, describing his play this week and at the Open Championship last month, where he failed to make the cut.
The 47-year-old Hall of Famer finished 11 over through 36 holes at the PGA Championship on Friday and is expected to miss the cut for the first time since 1995.
The realization the streak was ending set in after an opening-round 79 — his worst round at the PGA Championship. It took Mickelson 31 holes to make a birdie.
"I'm having a tough time visualizing the shot," he said. "I'm having a tough time controlling my thoughts and not letting it wander to what I don't want to happen."
The big question now: Where does he go from here?
The President's Cup is in September and for perhaps the first time Mickelson might be watching from home. U.S. team captain Steve Stricker spoke with Mickelson recently. He would love to see him on the team, but his play must improve.
"I told him I would like to see him play well here on out to show me something basically, and that doesn't sound right coming from a guy like me talking to Phil," Stricker said. "Hey, show me something — that doesn't sound right. [But] that's basically what I said. Show me that you are playing good at the end of the year."
Mickelson desperately wants to be on the team.
He points out he has made the cut in 16 of 18 tournaments this year, with the two majors being the exception. But Mickelson is ranked 30th in the world and has only one Top 10 finish in the last 11 tournaments — a ninth at the St. Jude Classic.
He hopes to play well in the first two events of the FedEx Cup to show he belongs. Mickelson has been a captain's choice before, but he prefers to make the team on his own merit.
Stricker said the U.S. team, including qualifying players and assistant captains, will have a say in the two captain's choices.
"I know how important he is on the team," Stricker said. "How good he is with the young guys and in the locker room and that kind of stuff."
Mickelson said his struggles are unlike those from two years ago when he was searching for his game and looking to improve his ball striking. He said he's hitting the ball extremely well during practice — on the range and the greens.
These days, it's a lack of concentration in tournaments. Mickelson plans to spend the next week trying to find a way to control his thoughts.
"If I have a short putt, it's not a technical issue — I'm just not seeing the ball go in and staying committed," Mickelson said. "I'm just losing focus on every shot. I have a week to work on it and see if I can get it dialed in. ... Just not real focused when I'm out there."
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