Lefty Misses another Chance


Phil Mickelson knows that one day in the not-too-distant future he's going to run out of opportunities to win the U.S. Open. After all, time and advancing age have a way with gradually diminishing performances by elite athletes.

So the normally upbeat Mickelson, who turned 43 on Sunday, was particularly downcast after not being able to sustain his lead entering the final round and being handed the most important piece of hardware for the golf Hall of Fame member, the U.S. Open trophy.

Instead, Mickelson succumbed on Father's Day to a brutally tough East Course at Merion, closing with a 4-over 74 and finishing two strokes behind Justin Rose, who - like many Open champions before him - played uncannily well on Sunday's back nine.

For Mickelson, it was the sixth time the four-time major champion has finished second in a U.S. Open, by far the most runner-ups in America's national golf championship.

The other five were also painful, but Mickelson's disappointment on Sunday evening was palpable. "For me it's very heartbreaking," he told reporters. "This could have been the big - a really big turnaround for me on how I look at the U.S. Open and the tournament that I'd like to win, after having so many good opportunities.

"Also playing very well here and really loving the golf course, this week was my best opportunity, I felt, heading in, certainly the final round, the way I was playing and the position I was in."

Here's what else Mickelson had to tell the media on Sunday.

Here's what else Mickelson gamely told the media.

Q. Did such a great job all week staying away from the big numbers, and you had two out of your first five holes, what happened?

PHIL MICKELSON: I should have made bogeys on those holes and I let them become doubles. The third hole was a very tough par, in fact, 274 into a 20 mile an hour wind, I didn't really have the shot to get back there. I needed a driver. And I could have gotten a 3 wood on the first half, the front left, which is where I went for it, and it ended up in a very awkward spot. But I should have been able to two putt and make bogey.

5 was a very tough hole for me all week because, again, I didn't carry driver, and it was into the wind. And the landing area is 40 degrees, pitched short of those bunkers, which is about where I'm landing it. And I wasn't able to hit that fairway all week, and was able to play it in 2 over, which wasn't - 3 over, I doubled it today. But, again, I three putted. I had a chance to get an iron shot close, thought I hit a decent shot, but left three putted. I just would have been very happy with bogeys on 3 and 5. Those are tough holes. And those were costly doubles. But I hung tough. And waited until I got some birdie holes, and ended up getting lucky with the hole out on 10 and getting back into it.

Q. What was your yardage on 10?

PHIL MICKELSON: 75.

Q. How disappointing was 13?

PHIL MICKELSON: 13 and 15 were the two bad shots of the day that I'll look back on where I let it go. Because 13, I hit a pitching wedge and when I was drawing that shot I had too much club. I needed a gap wedge, and it would have been a better fit. I hit too much club there. Then I did hit the gap wedge on 15, I quit on it, and missed it short left. I had hit that one aggressively and flown it past the hole, I think it would have given me a birdie chance. So those two wedge shots were the two costly shots, I felt. But all day it seemed as though until that hole out on 10, it seemed like I would hit putt after putt that wouldn't go in. They looked good at three feet or four feet out and I couldn't quite get it to go in.

After the rain the greens were very pure. The spike marks smoothed out after the rain. Early on it was really rough around the hole. But for the most part, I had good opportunities all the way through and let it slide little bit. Those wedge shots on 13 and 15 are the two I'll look back on.

Q. The green on 17 was slower than you had thought it would be.

PHIL MICKELSON: It did. But I had a 40 footer up and over a hump. The likelihood of making that is very slim. Even though Bones and I thought I hit it the right pace to just creep over that hill and trickle down, but it pulled up short. Still those aren't the ones I expect to make. I just couldn't get the momentum.

Q. Someone is asking do you regret taking your driver out of your bag?

PHIL MICKELSON: No, I mean I hit the 3 wood pretty good all week, and I was able to keep it in play. I don't know where I would have hit it, other than maybe the par 3, third, today. But even then I probably still would have stuck with a hard 3 wood.

Q. Finishing second again in the U.S. Open, go over that feeling?

PHIL MICKELSON: For me it's very heartbreaking. This could have been the big - a really big turnaround for me on how I look at the U.S. Open and the tournament that I'd like to win, after having so many good opportunities. Also playing very well here and really loving the golf course, this week was my best opportunity, I felt, heading in, certainly the final round, the way I was playing and the position I was in.

Q. After the third hole it looked like you said something to Mike Davis after the double bogey and after the fourth tee shot. Did you think the setup was fair today?

PHIL MICKELSON: I thought it was a great setup all week. I thought that the golf course was fabulous. We had weather and we had some conditions with Sunday pins, it was difficult. But I thought that it was really well done and, you know, it was - I loved having the hard holes be really hard. And I loved having chances on the birdie holes.

Q. Is this tougher than the others to take, this second?

PHIL MICKELSON: Very possibly, yeah. I would say it very well could be. I think this was my best chance. I think that the way that I was playing heading in, the position I was in and the way I love the golf course. It gave me chances to make birdies. I didn't really make any, but there were opportunity after opportunity, after you get by the 6th hole. And even the 6th hole, I had a great look at it. But this one's probably the toughest for me, because at 43 and coming so close five times, it would have changed way I look at this tournament altogether and the way I would have looked at my record. Except I just keep feeling heartbreak.

Q. Did you - when the ball fell in at 10, did you think you had a chance?

PHIL MICKELSON: It put me right up on the lead and right at even par where I thought would be the winning score. And I had a couple of birdie opportunities with 11, 12 and 13 coming up. So it was a critical juncture there, critical shot. I would have been happy to take birdie there. But to see that ball go in, I really thought that I was in a good position. I also knew, though, that I wasn't ahead of anybody by much. And when Justin birdied 12 and 13, he actually regained the lead. But that shot vaulted me up and allowed me to be more patient.

Q. Playing here in the Philly area and hearing the happy birthdays all around, did you get a special feeling they were behind you?

PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, the people here have been fabulous. And to look at the members and what they've done and the homeowners, what they've sacrificed to allow this tournament to come back is pretty cool. The way the community has wanted this and supports this tournament, more so than just about any place we've ever been. We've played U.S. Opens at great golf courses where the membership voted not to have us back. Here they want us back, they're opening their homes to the USGA for the infrastructure. Coming out when they can't really see too much, coming out to be a part of the tournament. It's great the way the city of Philadelphia has supported this tournament. I hope we have a chance to come back.

Q. What about the shot on 10, did it give you an idea that maybe you could bring home the championship?

PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, we already covered that. So ask that guy to pay attention.

Q. In the harsh light of just finishing in second place, which is not really where you want to be, is there maybe sort of a reflection of time to look at six second places and you see some value and some positives and accomplishment out of that kind of a record?

PHIL MICKELSON: If I have a win to match, yes (laughter) I think that's probably a fair assessment. If I had won today or if I ultimately win, I'll look back at the other Opens and think that it was a positive play. If I never get The Open, then I look back and I think that every time I think of the U.S. Open, I just think of heartbreak.

Q. Your iron play this week, talk about the opportunity, how do you assess your iron play, your ball striking?

PHIL MICKELSON: It was just the best that I've had. My iron play was really good this week. I hit a ton of mid and long irons very solidly and where I wanted to. And that allowed me to score decent on a very difficult course. That was a critical part. And then off the tee, putting the ball in play. I didn't do that well today, but putting the ball in play was critical.

Q. Did you think you were putting well or did you feel your stroke was off?

PHIL MICKELSON: No, I didn't feel the stroke was off. The stroke felt fabulous all day, starting at the first hole. I can't believe that ball didn't go in. Second hole I hit a good putt. It was really rough around that hole there. I hit a good putt for eagle on 4. Hit a good putt on 6. I thought I made that. I thought I made the one on 8. Thought I made the one on 9, man. The one on 11 wasn't great, but I thought I had a chance on 12. Certainly 16, I thought I made. There were a number that could have gone in. And I think only one did, the one on 14 for par.

Q. You prepare for this championship better than most. Are you surprised at all at the difficulty in the end? Did you think it would be this tough?

PHIL MICKELSON: I think I probably thought the scores would be a little bit lower. But I didn't quite understand how hard the hard holes were going to play. I didn't think today where the wind was howling into the tee would be all the way back on 3. I didn't take that into account. I thought the tee would be up there, when it was into the wind and back when it's downwind. I didn't take into account how long 14 was going to play, because when the tee was back, that extra, I don't know, 70 yards or whatever, into the wind, was extremely long. I didn't quite take that into account. I thought the tee would be up a little bit when it was into the wind. So those holes played quite a bit harder than we thought.

Q. The week started with Amanda's story, was she here today, did you talk to her?

PHIL MICKELSON: No, she's been sick. She got strep throat and another one got sick. So we decided not to have them come out. They were going to come out maybe last night but they had all that stuff going on with school, the earliest they could have come out was Saturday.

Q. Speaking of 3, how difficult was that chip shot to get close to the hole?

PHIL MICKELSON: It was difficult to get close to the hole. It was not a double-bogey. It should have been just a bogey. But I three putted it and that did it.

The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.

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