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."

Life and Style
A teenager boy wakes up.
life
Life and Style
It is believed that historically rising rates of alcohol consumption have contributed to the increase
food + drink
News
An Apple iPhone 6 stands on display at the Apple Store
businessRegulators give iPhone 6 and 6 Plus the green light
Arts and Entertainment
Critics say Kipling showed loathing for India's primitive villagers in The Jungle Book
filmChristopher Walken, Bill Murray, Scarlett Johanssen Idris Elba, Andy Serkis, Benedict Cumberbatch, Cate Blanchett and Christian Bale
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Playing to win: for Tanith Carey, pictured with Lily, right, and Clio, even simple games had to have an educational purpose
lifeTanith Carey explains what made her take her foot off the gas
Arts and Entertainment
film
Arts and Entertainment
The White Sails Hospital and Spa is to be built in the new Tunisia Economic City.
architectureRussian billionaire designs boat-shaped hospital for new Dubai-style Tunisia Economic City
Arts and Entertainment
music
Life and Style
tech
Extras
indybest
Arts and Entertainment
A still from Duncan Campbell's hour-long film 'It for Others'
Turner Prize 2014
Life and Style
food + drink
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hadley in a scene from ‘Soul Boys Of The Western World’
musicSpandau Ballet are back together - on stage and screen
News
i100
Life and Style
Bearing up: Sebastian Flyte with his teddy Aloysius in Brideshead Revisited
lifePhilippa Perry explains why a third of students take a bear to uni
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Alan Sugar appearing in a shot from Apprentice which was used in a Cassette Boy mashup
artsA judge will rule if pieces are funny enough to be classed as parodies
Arts and Entertainment
film
News
news
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

Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style