PEBBLE BEACH (California) (AFP) When it comes to his many and varied near-misses at the US Open, Phil Mickelson prefers to look on the bright side. Five runner-up finishes in 11 years may seem like an agonizing array of almosts, but for the American who celebrated his 40th birthday on Wednesday they are proof that he has what it takes eventually to add a US Open trophy to his three Masters titles and one PGA Championship. I think when I started out as a young pro, not many people maybe even myself, included thought this would be a tournament I would play well at, but yet Ive been able to, said Mickelson, who doesnt boast the steady accuracy that is considered the hallmark of a US Open contender. Because of that I still have a sense of pride in the way Ive played, but, again, I would like to win my national open. Mickelsons quest resumes Thursday at Pebble Beach, where has won the PGA Tours AT&T National Pro-Am three times. But there is even more at stake for Mickelson, who comes to the second major of the year as the Masters champion and thus has a chance to secure the second leg of the Grand Slam. Also in his sights is the world number one ranking, with Tiger Woods, longtime tennant of the top spot, an unknown quantity in a season marked so far by scandal, a sore neck and so-so golf. I think everybody who plays golf as a professional is motivated to try to become number one, Mickelson said. Its not an area that I focus on. I feel if I play good golf that will happen. Mickelson notched his unprecedented fifth US Open runner-up finish last year at Bethpage Black, taking a bogey on the 71st hole and settling for a share of second behind surprise winner Lucas Glover. He also finished second in 1999 at Pinehurst, in 2002 at Bethpage, in 2004 at Shinnecock and in 2006 at Winged Foot where a double-bogey at the final hole saw him lose by one stroke. But Mickelson, who owns three Masters titles and one US PGA Championship, says his US Open history isnt one of failure. Woods, who numbers three US Opens among his 14 major championships, agrees. I think that just by finishing second five times it goes to show you that he understands how to play Opens, Woods said. This is the toughest event to win, and hes been right there so many times. Its just a matter of time before he gets it done. Pebble could be just the place. Although Mickelson knows the course will not be as yielding as it is in February, when the PGA Tour stops here, he feels a special connection to the place. Its a special tournament to me, he said. This is where I played my first event as a professional, 1992... Ive played so much here over the years and had some success at AT&T. I have a lot of fond memories here. Mickelson at 40 also has plenty of perspective. He celebrated his victory at Augusta with his wife, Amy, who was diagnosed last year with breast cancer. That was a very special, emotional week, said Mickelson. We were fortunate to have good long-term prognosis, so we feel fortunate even though weve had a difficult year. Im hoping and anticipate that Amy will be able to come out this weekend. and I would love to play well here and share another victory. South African Ernie Els, a two-time US Open champion who has two US tour victories this year, believes Mickelsons near-misses give the American something to draw on, as does his familiarity with the course. I think you can take a lot of positives, Els said. Theres not too many guys that finished second five times. Thats a feat in itself. Hes won here before, hes got good feelings, hes got the best short game in the game. I think hes got a great chance.