By Ann Liguori
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Six times a U.S. Open runner-up for Phil Mickelson.
This time had to be the most heartbreaking, though.
This was certainly worse than 1999 at Pinehurst when Mickelson missed a birdie putt on the final hole which would have tied Payne Stewart; worse than 2002 at Bethpage Black when Tiger beat him by three shots; worse than 2004 at Shinnecock, when two shots ahead of Retief Goosen, he had a three-putt from five feet for a double on 17; worse than 2006 at Winged Foot when he just needed a par to win and his tee shot found the hospitality tent and he doubled, losing to Geoff Ogilvy; and yes, worse than 2009 at Bethpage Black when he missed a short birdie putt on 14 and unraveled after that, after an eagle on the par-five 13th tied him for the lead with Lucas Glover.
This U.S. Open seemed to belong to Phil Mickelson. Sunday’s final round was meant to be his — on his 43rd birthday, on Father’s Day, five times the U.S. Open runner-up, the leader by one heading into the last day.
But it was not to be! And perhaps this was the last chance the 43-year-old may have had to add a U.S. Open title to his three Masters titles and one PGA Championship.
Justin Rose, 32, maintained his composure and fine play to win his very first major championship. Rose shot an even-par 70 and at plus-one, beating Jason Day and Phil Mickelson by two strokes. Mickelson had his chances and a mixed bag of scores and shots — two doubles, three bogies, a birdie and an eagle. But his short game and putting failed him when he needed it the most –- and he said if he never wins a U.S. Open, every time he thinks of the tournament he’ll think of heartbreak.
Sad words coming from Phil Mickelson.
But ironically, as outstanding as his short game is, it was his wedges that failed him. He over-cooked it on the par-three 13th, saying he should have hit his gap wedge. He then hit his gap wedge too short on the 15th.
In this heartwarming game, where there is heartbreak, there is also joy. And Justin Rose looked to the heavens in sheer happiness and relief, as a tribute to his deceased father, his coach, who passed when he was 21 years old.
The night before the final round, Rose texted his Mother and said, “Let’s do it for Dad.” Rose emphasized several times how much his father taught him and how important it is to be a role model for his kids, just as his dad taught him.
“Today was a fitting time to honor him and conduct myself, win or lose, the way he taught me,” he said.
As much as I hoped Mickelson’s storybook week would end on a high, putting an end to his nightmares at the U.S. Open, Rose makes a fine champion.
One man’s loss is another man’s triumph.
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