“Thirteen and 15 were the two bad shots of the day that I’ll look back on where I let it go,” Mickelson said.
What made it hurt even more was that Merion was Mickelson’s kind of course, a place where he could work the ball both ways and use his short game magic to trump the field. He knew it from the time he first played it, and became even more convinced of it the more he studied his notes and course pictures in the days ahead of the Open.
He opened with a 67 on little sleep and had a one-shot lead going into the final round. Everything was going according to plan _ you could almost see the newspaper headlines of “PHIL-a-del-phia” _ but anyone who has ever seen Mickelson play knows that even his best plans sometimes have a way of unraveling with little warning.
“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,” Mickelson said. “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.”
There was still a chance at the end, though it wasn’t a good one. With no driver, Mickelson had to hit his 3-wood on the 511-yard finishing hole immortalized by Hogan’s 1-iron and he put it in the left rough with no chance of reaching the green.
The crowd serenaded him with choruses of “Happy Birthday” as he came to the green needing to hole a pitch shot to force a playoff, but there would be no happiness this time.
“This one’s probably the toughest for me because, at 43 and coming so close five times, it would have changed the way I look at this tournament altogether and the way I would have looked at my record,” Mickelson said.
“Except I just keep feeling heartbreak.”
A word he kept repeating. A feeling he knows all too well.
Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg(at)ap.org or http://twitter/timdahlberg