Phil Mickelson posted a second top-three finish in as many weeks by producing the usual mix of brilliance and strange explanations

One day Phil Mickelson won’t be on our TV screens hitting bombs off the tee and 64-degree wedges up his nose. In a supposedly one-dimensional game the 49-year-old seemingly possesses every shot in the book, good and bad, and every round is like nothing else.

On the Saturday at Pebble Beach Mickelson chipped in on consecutive holes, one from sand and one from turf, hit just nine greens and took just 22 putts in his 67. Around the green he gained 4.26 shots and an even more absurd 4.83 in Strokes Gained total despite losing nearly two strokes to the field on his approaches.

But it was another shot that he placed as the second best bunker shot in his Hall of Fame career.

“It’s No. 2 in my all-time greatest bunker shots,” Mickelson said. “I made one in the final round at Memorial, Muirfield Village, the old 16th hole from under the lip, plugged, and I holed that one.”

He added: “This one didn’t go in but it was the second best I’ve ever hit. I was just trying to not make 5. I was trying to get on the green and just make a 4, give myself a putt at a par. But it came out great.”

Trademark Mickelson, who else ranks their best bunker shots? He even spoke afterwards about the need to miss it in the right places, something he even seemed to believe for a time, until he cut himself off and admitted that he had been all over Pebble Beach.

As early as his opening 68 he was speaking as only he can.

“I drove it like a stallion and hit almost every fairway (10/14) and when you’re doing that you can get aggressive and get after it.”

Three days later he stumbled to a 74, hitting in similarly strange spots but, this time, without the happy ending.

Mickelson gives and he takes, he always has done. A week ago most of us were drained by his appearance in Saudi, going into the week his comments seemed the most goofy when discussing the new driving distance report but, come the weekend after flying halfway across the world, he had most of us locked in. Even if you’re not cheering for him, then at least he’s got your interest.

Look at the fellow multiple major winners, like Ernie Els and Retief Goosen, who have joined the Champions Tour in the past year and think how their games are these days and how they would stack up on the PGA Tour. Mickelson is eligible to join them in June but he’s got little or no interest in joining them.

As for the US Open, Mickelson’s nemesis though six second places will trigger the positive side of his brain, he needs to now stay in the top 60 – his third place at Pebble moving him up from 72nd to 55th – by May 18 following the PGA Championship.

Or on June 15, the final ranking before the US Open is held at Winged Foot, the scene of his biggest runners-up mess. Otherwise he won’t be there.

Of course he’ll be there and, should you be interested, he’s an 80-1 chance.