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PINEHURST, N.C. — There is no logical reason to pick Phil Mickelson to win his first U.S. Open this week. He has had a terrible year by his standards, with zero finishes in the top 10 of the 14 PGA Tour events he has played. He missed the cut at the Masters. He has been injured. And, of course, he has been linked to an insider trading investigation.

Taking all of this in, it's more reasonable to say Mickelson will miss the cut than win the Open.

That's exactly why I'm picking him to win.

It's a wishful, whimsical choice, based on something Mickelson said Tuesday during his pre-tournament news conference: "I tend to do well when it's least expected."

Expectations couldn't be lower for Phil, so that seals it.

Every year Mickelson hopes to do what he has never done before — win the U.S. Open, "our national championship," as he calls it, before he runs out of time. The week of the Open coincides with Father's Day, his birthday (he turns 44 on Monday) and a daughter's birthday, which is inextricably linked to the first of his six second-place U.S. Open finishes, when he wore that beeper in the final round in 1999 in case he had to dash home for her birth.

Every year, these Phil milestones are wrapped in the tidiest package, with a new wrinkle for 2014: For the first time in his 24 years of playing in this tournament, he has a chance for the career Grand Slam if he wins. Mickelson has won three Masters titles and one PGA Championship but was without a British Open victory until he came from behind to add that to his resume last summer.

So it's all sitting here, waiting for him to finally take it, to win a U.S. Open after finishing second a record six times -- in 1999, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2009 and 2013. Some might shudder at the thought. Mickelson says he is embracing it.

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"I think the biggest thing for me is that I look at those close calls as a positive sign for having given myself so many opportunities in our national championship, and I believe that I'll have more opportunities," he said. "When I do, hopefully the experience that I've had in the past will allow me to handle it better in the future."

Pinehurst No. 2, of course, was where this seemingly unending streak of near-misses began. "Here specifically, obviously, I have a lot of very fond emotional memories, from the '99 experience with Payne Stewart (who died four months later in a plane crash) and coming so close and now my daughter who is going to be 15 and we just started teaching her to drive. … I don't feel that old. I guess I look it, but I don't feel it. Pinehurst here has so many great memories for me."

He loves what they've done to the place, taking out the high rough and replacing it with a sandscape of wire grass and straw. It's stark and beautiful. It's also as if it were made for him.

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"I'm up front with the fact that I would love to do it here at Pinehurst," he said. "It's probably the best opportunity, because the golf course is so short-game oriented, because the greens are so repellant, and the shots around the greens play a premium amongst all the Open venues that we have had. … This is certainly as good a chance as I'll have."

Phil winning at Pinehurst. It almost makes sense. Almost.

"I don't want to get overly excited because the pressure of a U.S. Open and having not been in contention (this year), that's going to be a challenge for me," he cautioned. "Also, the expectations of me looking forward to this event for almost a year now 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 as well."

He knows. We all know. Mickelson winning a U.S. Open is too good to be true, until it becomes true.

PHOTOS: Thursday at the U.S. Open

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