Phil Mickelson’s six near-misses at the U.S. Open:
With his wife Amy due to give birth to their first child any day, Mickelson plays his way into Sunday contention with a beeper in his bag, ready to leave at a moment’s notice. He holds a one-shot lead on Payne Stewart with three holes to play but loses two shots over the next two holes, thanks to a three-putt bogey on 17. Stewart seals the win by saving par with a 15-foot putt. Mickelson, reminded by Stewart of the joy he will feel when he becomes a father, is with Amy when Amanda is born the next morning — when a playoff would have begun.
2002, BETHPAGE BLACK
With Tiger Woods running away with the tournament, Mickelson goes on a Saturday birdie binge, cheered on by the New York crowds. But no one is going to catch Woods, who starts Sunday with a five-shot lead. Mickelson, playing in the next-to-last group, finishes alone in second, three shots back.
2004, SHINNEOCK HILLS
Mickelson has finally broken through for his first major at the Masters and with two holes left on the baked-out layout in the Hamptons, it looks as though he will follow up his 0-for-41 by going 2-for-2. A birdie on 16 puts him one shot up on Retief Goosen before his 6-iron shot lands in the greenside bunker on the par-3 17th. He has a favorable uphill lie but makes a big mistake by leaving a lightning-quick five-foot putt from above the hole. That races six feet past the cup and he misses the comebacker for a double bogey. Goosen, with 11 one-putts, wins by two.
2006, WINGED FOOT
Mickelson’s post-mortem verdict, “I am such an idiot,” sums up the way he throws this one away. Mickelson’s amazing short game has saved him all week long but he can’t scramble out of the mess he creates at the 72nd hole. Having hit just two fairways all day, he tries to cut a driver off the tee and over-cooks it off a hospitality tent behind a tree. From there, he hits the tree with his second, ends up with a fried egg lie in the greenside bunker with his third and runs through the green just into the rough with his fourth. After he misses the miracle chip, the double bogey meltdown leaves him one shot short of Geoff Ogilvy.
2009, BETHPAGE BLACK
His wife Amy has been diagnosed with breast cancer and Mickelson doesn’t know how much golf he’ll be playing the rest of the year. Still, after starting the final round six shots back, he grabs a share of the lead with an eagle on 13. Again the New York crowds urge him on but he misses a three-foot par putt on 15, followed by another bogey on 17. “Certainly I’m disappointed,” Mickelson says afterward. “But now that it’s over, I’ve got more important things going on. And, oh, well.”
Fate, it appears, is finally smiling on Mickelson when he holes out for an eagle on No. 10 to take a one-shot lead with eight holes left. It doesn’t last. Two groups ahead of him, Justin Rose will make two straight birdies to take the lead and when he comes to the 112-yard 13th hole, Mickelson pulls the wrong wedge and air-mails the green for bogey. “Every time I think of the U.S. Open,” he will say, “I think of heartbreak.”