Phil Mickelson will play in a record 12th Ryder Cup later this month, but it will mark the first time the five-time major champ has needed to be a captain’s pick to make the U.S. squad. And he can thank a potential statistical first for Jim Fuyrk selecting him to make the trip to France.
With two tournaments remaining in his PGA Tour season (At No. 9 in the FedEx Cup points list entering this week’s BMW Championship, Mickelson is assured of also playing in the Tour Championship in two weeks), Mickelson is on the verge of leading the tour in strokes gained putting for the first time in his career. Mickelson is currently No. 2 in the category, gaining .841 strokes per round. A final-round 63 at the Dell Technologies Championship helped him close the gap on Jason Day, who leads at .862. Greg Chalmers is No. 3 at .790.
Mickelson’s previous best in this relatively new metric was finishing fifth (.661) in the category in 2013. Unfortunately, strokes gained putting wasn’t around when Mickelson turned pro in 1993, but in going back to 2004, that’s still a solid sample size of 15 seasons.
Since the stat’s inception, Mickelson’s putting has improved dramatically. From 2004 to 2011, he never finished better than 40th in the category, including a worst showing on the greens in 2011 when he ranked 144th at -.190. However, since then, he’s only been out of the top 40 once, and barring something crazy over the final two weeks, this will be his third time ranking in the top 10 in SGP since 2013.
“There’s a number of areas in my game that, if I look back 10, 15 years ago, I feel like I’m significantly better,” Mickelson said on the Dan Patrick Show in March. “Certainly, I’ve gotten a ton better at putting.”
Two more strong putting performances and Mickelson, at 48, won’t just be able to say he’s better — he’ll finally be able stake his claim as the PGA Tour’s best on the greens.