Close but no cigar: a look back at Phil Mickelson at the U.S. Open

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ARDMORE, PA - JUNE 16:  Phil Mickelson of the United States walks off the second green during the final round of the 113th U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club on June 16, 2013 in Ardmore, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

Phil Mickelson turns 45 years old on Tuesday. All eyes will be on Lefty this week at Chambers Bay, as he looks to finally capture his first U.S. Open and complete the career Grand Slam.

It’s not that Phil hasn’t been close. He has a record six runner-ups (1999, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2009, 2012). Here’s a look back at all those heartbreakingly close but no cigar moments.

1999: The Duel at Pinehurst

The 1999 U.S. Open is remembered more for Payne Stewart’s iconic fist pump, as he celebrated a 15-foot par put on 18 that sealed his victory. Mickelson was just 29-years-old at the time. What’s incredible about the 1999 runner-up is that Amy, Phil’s wife, was due any minute with the couple’s first child. Phil actually played the final round with a pager on his belt, vowing to walk off the golf course should Amy go into labor.

2002: Tiger’s Year

Lefty played great in 2002, shooting a third round 67 to move into third place. Unfortunately, Tiger Woods, who had won the Masters that year too, was out in front and no one was catching him. Mickelson carded a final round 70, but still lost to Tiger by three shots.

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2004: Disaster on 17

2004 felt like the year for Phil. He won the Masters in April for his first career major. Entering the weekend with a share of the lead, Mickelson shot a 73 on Saturday, but was still only two shots back entering the final round. Lefty rallied on Sunday, and at one point pulled into the lead. But then, on the 17th green, disaster struck. Mickelson three putted for a double-bogey, and Retief Goosen won the U.S. Open by two strokes.

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2006: Winged Foot

Of the six runner-up finishes for Mickelson, none is more infamous then the disaster at Winged Foot. A win would have been Phil’s third straight major victory in a row (2005 PGA, 2006 Masters). Lefty shared the lead on Sunday morning, and headed to the 18th tee box, looking like he would finally get the monkey off his back. Mickelson only needed a par to win, and even a bogey would force a Monday playoff with Geoff Ogilvy.

Lefty’s tee shot went so far left that it clattered through the trees by a hospitality tent. On his second shot, he hit a tree, and the ball advanced just 25 yards. Phil’s third shot found a greenside bunker, buried with a “fried-egg” lie. The fourth shot from the bunker rolled off the other side of the green and found the rough. Finally, Mickelson’s chip for bogey and the Monday playoff rolled six feet past the hole.

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2009: 5th Runner Up

Three years later, Phil was back at Bethpage Black, the site of his 2002 runner-up to Tiger. This was a tough year for Mickelson, as Amy was battling cancer at the time. During the final round, Mickelson missed a birdie putt at 14, three-putted for bogey on 15, and took another bogey at 17. Lucas Glover won by two shots.

Phil Mickelson of the U.S. reacts to missing a birdie putt on the 18th green during the fourth round of the U.S. Open golf championship on the Black Course at Bethpage State Park in Farmingdale, New York, June 22, 2009.     REUTERS/Mike Segar (UNITED STATES SPORT GOLF IMAGES OF THE DAY)

2013: 2 Shots Behind Justin Rose

The 6th and final runner-up for Mickelson came just two years ago. As usual, Lefty had plenty of chances. Three birdie putts lipped out on the front 9 during Sunday’s final round. After an incredible eagle on 10, Mickelson had the outright lead. But a bogey on 13 relinquished the lead to Justin Rose, who eventually held on to win by two shots.

Said Mickelson after the round, “”this is tough to swallow after coming so close…I felt like this was as good an opportunity I could ask for and to not get it…it hurts.”

Your Take

Is 2015 the year Phil Mickelson finally gets his white whale, the monkey off his back, the elusive U.S. Open victory? Leave us a comment below and tell us what you think of Phil’s chances. Be sure to tell us too which of his six runner-up finishes you think was the most heartbreaking.

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