Many names can be entered into the subject of this blog post, but in the end there is one man people tend to care about in the Open: Phil Mickelson. The beloved lefty has played in the U.S. open more times than we can count on two hands. Furthermore, a sad fact is that he has come in second place more times than you can count on one of those hands – an unwanted-record 6 times.
The First Miss
Phil’s struggle to complete the career Grand Slam began quite a long time ago. Back in 1999, Phil was close to winning his first major at Pinehurst, in this very event – the U.S. Open. He would end up being denied by Payne Stewart who famously dialed in on the back nine, making three hugely important putts over the last few holes and thus rejecting Mickelson’s championship aspirations.
Time and Time Again
Upon completion of that tournament in Pinehurst circa 1999, many assumed it would only be a matter of time before Phil took that next leap. While Mickelson would put on the green jacket in 2004, for the time being, he seemed cursed at the Open since losing to Payne Stewart.
In 2002, Phil found himself competing against the phenomenon that was Tiger Woods in his prime and, once again, finished 2nd. Following his first major win in ’04 at the Masters, things were looking up and all signs pointed to a victory in that year’s U.S. Open golf championship. In his final round with a one shot lead through 16, Lefty “choked” and three-putted hole 17, which then led to a 2 shot loss overall.
Failure would raise its ugly head to Phil for years to come; he would find his name under the second place banner in 2006, 2009, 2010 and 2013.
Interestingly, these years hold some special significance for Phil. Why? Let’s take a look at the number ‘8’, for example. While many of us average – okay, maybe below average – golfers would pay a million dollars to finish within 8 strokes of the U.S. Open winner, for Phil that actually happened. Except, to make the pain and tragedy even deeper, he lost those four individual invitationals by a combined total of ‘8,’ making those years’ tournaments particularly sore.
Lefty is sure to provide the media and the fans with some exciting golf over this coming weekend, but ‘will he get over the hump’ is another question. Phil has looked decent this year at Memphis and Memorial, but he certainly doesn’t look like his old self. Lefty has yet to crack the top-10 this season and his putting game has lost its consistency. In his final match before this U.S. Open, he finished tied for 11th. This makes it hard to see him doing much better given this field of competition. We all can cross our fingers, but look for one of the winners to come from Rory, Adam Scott or Bubba who have performed much better as of late and are pretty clearly on the front-end of their primes. Maybe Rory will finally be able to carry his momentum from the first three rounds into the final round and avoid mayhem. And Adam Scott? Scott is on the hunt for major number 2 and as the current #1 ranked player in the world, it is in his grasp.
Phil Mickelson has had a marvelous career, one that will surely be remembered as one of the best PGA Championship winners by both golf fans and pros alike. His playing style is pretty crazy, but very appreciated by the gallery. History might read differently for Phil Mickelson if he can steal a U.S. Open title and complete the “holy grail” this year, but it just doesn’t seem to be that time. While painful to admit, a second place finish would be the optimistic outlook.
For additional insights into one of golf’s most prestigious events, check out our article about 10 facts about the U.S. Open (that you may not know).