US Open 2014: Phil Mickelson aims to make history. Justin Rose just wants to catch the World Cup

Englishman grateful the Three Lions' World Cup opener against Italy is after the close of play on Saturday

pinehurst

They were queuing round the block for this one. Ladies and gentlemen Phil Mickelson is in the house. Had Mickelson ridden through the doors on the back of Champion the wonder horse he could not have cut a more heroic figure in the eyes of the American audience, his half a dozen failures at the US Open creating a dam of emotion ready to blow the bloody doors off Pinehurst.

Mickelson turns 44 on Monday. It is 15 years since his first reverse in this event at this course at the hands of Payne Stewart. The birth of his first child was imminent. Stewart rolled in a 15-footer at the last to deny Mickelson his first major but in an intimate embrace promised him his time would come at this championship and wished him luck with fatherhood. Within months Stewart was dead, snuffed out when the cabin of his private jet lost pressure at altitude. All these elements are swirling around Mickelson, not to mention the minor issue of his attempting to join the famous five – Hogan, Nicklaus, Palmer, Player and Woods – to have won all four major championships.

There is a sense that something bigger than him is steering his ship and that all he has to do is harness the power. He carried around the course with the look of a kid on Christmas morning, as if Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore's lauded redesign of Pinehurst No 2 was commissioned entirely on his behalf.

"This place is awesome. It is just a wonderful site. I do feel heading into this year's Open that this golf course, this set-up, and everything about Pinehurst provides me the best opportunity. It is testing a player's entire game. It forces you to make decisions, to choose the right club off the tee, hit solid iron shots into the green, and utilise your short game to save strokes. There's no luck involved with the hack-it-out rough that sometimes we have around the greens. It's just a wonderful test and I think the best I've seen to identify the best player."

The course is one thing, the circumstances another. Mickelson is the interviewer's dream, loquacious to a fault but not windy with his responses. He understands and embraces the princely role in which he is cast by the adoring public. "The expectations of me looking forward to this event and the history that I've had here and how much of a great story it would be and how much it would mean to me to win here with what happened with Payne Stewart and my child and all these things, that makes it more difficult.

"I tend to do something, play better, like at Muirfield last year when nobody really expects it and I just kind of come out of nowhere and know that I can do it and not really have to answer questions about it. So these are all challenges that I'm facing this week, but I'm also enjoying it and I love being here."

Mickelson added his voice to the majority view that the erasing of the rough in favour of naturally occurring scrub makes this a second-shot championship and places a premium on the short game. The winner this week will be the player who recovers best when the green repels his ball, as surely it will. And few wave a wand as magically as Mickelson around the greens when his game is on.

Mickelson's playing partner on Thursday and defending champion Justin Rose is more relaxed than he has ever been, freed from Mickelson's burden of seeking a maiden US Open victory. In a light-hearted address Rose said he was grateful that England's World Cup opener against Italy is after the close of play on Saturday rather than before.

Four years ago Rose went into the last day of the Travelers Championship leading the field. On that occasion the time zones in Bloemfontein sent England into the match against Germany before his final round. Suitably wired, and waving his scarf and rattle, Rose sat through the whole debacle. The day didn't end well for him, either. "I was leading by three I think going into Sunday .

"It was an emotional football match and then I never really calmed down. I think I watched it about 10 in the morning, we were playing at 2 o'clock in the afternoon, I ended up going out and losing the golf tournament. So maybe I'll be a little bit more careful about my emotions watching the football."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Richard Norris in GQ
mediaGQ features photo shoot with man who underwent full face transplant
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Your picture is everything in the shallow world of online dating
i100
News
The Swiss Re tower or 'Gherkin' was at one time the UK’s most expensive office when German bank IVG and private equity firm Evans Randall bought it
news
Life and Style
Attractive women on the Internet: not a myth
techOkCupid boasts about Facebook-style experiments on users
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on