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Mickelson racing the clock and spinning his wheels

Phil Mickelson has never played this much golf this late in the year since the PGA Tour began a new season in October instead of January.

He’s never had this much of a reason.

Mickelson is running out of time to show why U.S. captain Tiger Woods should pick him for the Presidents Cup. At stake is a streak that is unlikely to be matched. Mickelson has played on 24 consecutive Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup teams, qualifying for 20 of them. The last time he wasn’t on a team was 1993, the year Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth were born.

Through two tournaments, there are few signs of progress except for his weight loss.

As always with Mickelson, there is no shortage of optimism.

How else to explain how a player can be so good for so long? How he could win his first PGA Tour event when he was in college and his most recent when he was a year away from being eligible for the PGA Tour Champions?

How he could go nearly 26 consecutive years among the top 50 in the world?

“The challenge of playing golf at the highest level brings out the best in me,” Mickelson said in Las Vegas after he tied for 61st in a tournament he had not played since 2005. “It forces me to get in the best shape, forces me to work hard and to focus on something positive, improving my game. It gives me a direction, and it’s been a big part of my life and I love it.

“It’s a fun challenge for me right now to play my best golf.”

It doesn’t look like much fun, not based on the results.

Since winning at Pebble Beach in February, Mickelson has gone 18 consecutive tournaments out of the top 10, the longest drought of his career. The second-longest drought out of the top 10 was 16 events, all but three of those when he was finishing his senior year at Arizona State.

He began his 29th season on the PGA Tour by hitting consecutive shots out-of-bounds on the par-5 fifth hole at Silverado and making a quadruple-bogey 9, which led to a 75 and a missed cut in the Safeway Open. The next week in Las Vegas, just four shots out of the lead going into the weekend, Mickelson shot 74 in the third round on a TPC Summerlin course that yielded six scores of 63 or lower.

Mickelson finished too low to earn world ranking points in Las Vegas and dropped to No. 46.