Here’s A Look at Phil Mickelson’s Five Runner-Up Finishes at the U.S. Open

If Phil Mickelson never wins another major, he’ll undoubtedly still go down as one of the top 10 or 15 golfers who ever lived.  His three green jackets and PGA Championship title put him among the greats of all time and certainly one of the top two or three of the past three decades.  But, for all of the triumph, there has been an equal amount of heartbreak, particularly at our nation’s championship.  Here’s a quick look at Phil’s five U.S. Open runner-ups:

’99 U.S. Open at Pinehurst– This was Phil’s first real contention in any major championship, as he entered into the final round just one shot back of leader Payne Stewart.  After a neck-and-neck battle all day long, Phil missed a 10 footer for birdie on 17, while Stewart converted his birdie putt from just inside Phil to take a one stroke lead with one to play.  After Phil’s 30 footer for birdie on 18 burned the edge, Payne had a 15-footer for par to win, which he drained, and famously celebrated with a major jab of the fist and a hug of his caddie Mike Hicks. Then, in an all-time selfless moment, amidst all of the winning euphoria, Payne grabbed Phil by the cheeks and yelled, “you’re going to be a father!”

’02 U.S. Open at Bethpage Black- Phil came into the ’02 Open red hot with consecutive top-three finishes, and had the NYC post-9/11 crowds roaring on his side all week; however, it wasn’t meant to be as Phil ultimately would finish three strokes back to Tiger Woods.

’04 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills- In a near sneaky come-from-behind attack after starting the day two behind of leader Retief Goosen, Phil birdied both holes 15 + 16 to pull within a shot of the lead, but three jacked from just five feet on 17 to ultimately make double bogey and finish two shots behind Retief.

’06 U.S. Open at Winged Foot- This one needs some extra details.  After leading most of Sunday, Phil came to the 72nd hole needing a par to win or bogey to force a playoff.  With Phil’s career-long erratic play off the tee, such circumstances would seemingly mean a fairway wood or even a long iron  would be the ideal play off the tee, as placing the ball in the fairway is a necessity at any U.S. Open, particularly when nursing a one shot lead.  Instead of playing for par, in true Mickelson-ian fashion Phil pulled driver and proceeded to flare his tee shot well left of the fairway, in fact it flew so far left that it bounced over by some corporate tents that were bordering the hole and into the long matted down rough in the trees where the spectators trample their way up and down the hole.  I can still hear Roger Maltbie’s call of the shot ring through my ears, “this is way left, WAY WAY left….”

What proceeded following the tee shot was another Mickelson-ian like shot, as he attempted to…well, go for the green, or something like that, but proceeded to crash the shot off the trees and tumble down just a few paces in front of him.  A sky high third shot which didn’t have enough hook, followed by a sand shot from a fried egg lie over the green, then a hacked chip past the cup and a “meaningless” slippery 8 footer down the hill later all added up in a double bogey, and one shot too high out of a playoff.  It was a blurry whirlwind of a finish even for us just watching, and it couldn’t have been better summarized than by Phil himself to which he said, “I’m such an idiot, I can’t believe that I just did that.”  Let it be known that Colin Montgomerie also double bogeyed the final hole to miss out by one, but that it was far overshadowed by Phill-the-thrill’s collapse.  It definitely became one of those majors that was much more highly remembered for who lost (Phil), than who won (Geoff Ogilvy).

2009 U.S. Open at Bethpage Black – After a water-logged and mess of a week condition-wise, Phil vaulted up the leaderboard with a sensational eagle on the par 5 13th hole on Sunday, which suddenly tied him for the lead with leader Lucas Glover (Glucose Lover).  Unfortunately, Phil then went on to miss a short birdie putt on 14, three putted hole 15 for bogey, missed another short putt on 16 and bogeyed 17 to ultimately lose to Glucose by two strokes.  Winged Foot aside, it was certainly Phil’s closest call at the Open.

So, it’s quite evident that our nation’s championship has provided Phil with all too many headaches over the years.  Even though he’s playing the best golf in the field this week and is our solo leader heading into Sunday at Merion, which also happens to be his 43rd birthday, here’s why Phil will not be winning on Sunday. (Hint- it’s all just a little too perfect).  No matter what though, I’ll definitely be cheering for Lefty.

Joel Harrington


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