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Choking Back The Years - Phil Mickelson at the US Open


Phil Mickelson during the final round of the 2006 US Open Championships in June 2006 at Winged Foot

Phil Mickelson during the final round of the 2006 US Open Championships in June 2006 at Winged Foot

Phil Mickelson during the final round of the 2006 US Open Championships in June 2006 at Winged Foot

A look back at Phil Mickelson's six second places at the US Open.



Payne Stewart (69 69 72 70, -1).


Mickelson (67 70 73 70, E).

What happened: Not yet 30, Mickelson appeared to have all the time in the world to win the US Open, but for Payne Stewart, a popular two-time winner of this championship, time was tragically short. He died in a plane crash the following October.

Mickelson led with three to play but failed to finish the job. Still, he'd little cause for self-reproach after this one-stroke defeat. Stewart gave a virtuoso display with the putter. He holed a par-saver at 16 and went on to make that iconic 15-foot title-clincher at the last.

Any frustration Mickelson felt vanished the following day when his wife Amy gave birth to their first child.

LEFTY'S LAMENT: "I felt with three holes to go I was in control because I was leading and it's a very difficult course to make birdies on. Even until Payne's last putt, I felt like I'd a good chance."



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Tiger Woods (67 68 70 72, -3).


Mickelson (70 73 67 70, E).

What happened: There could be only one winner at Bethpage – the invincible Tiger Woods. Yet the New York masses gave their hearts and roars to Mickelson. It turned into a deafening love fest on the Black Course as Mickelson finished 'best of the rest' three behind Tiger.

LEFTY'S LAMENT: "When I birdied 13 to pull to within two I thought I'd a good shot at it. But this wasn't a disappointing day. The people of New York gave me one of the most outstanding experiences I've had in golf."



Retief Goosen (70 66 69 71, -4).


Mickelson (68 66 73 71, -2).

What happened: This one stung like hell! After breaking his Major hoodoo at that April's Masters, Mickelson looked menacing as he drew level with leader Retief Goosen with back-to-back birdies at 15 and 16 on a ludicrously difficult set-up at Shinnecock.

Then he simply blew it with a nightmare double-bogey five at 17, where Lefty chipped to six feet above the hole and three-putted. An unhappy trend had been set.

Goosen, looking infallible on glass greens, clinched a second US Open by sinking a 12-footer for birdie at 16 and finishing with two solid pars.

For all his frustration, Mickelson still hung around for hours afterwards, signing autographs and pressing the flesh with New York fans.

LEFTY'S LAMENT: "I don't know what to say about 17.

I hit an easy putt because I knew it was quick but it was downwind and when the wind gets hold of it on these greens, it wouldn't stop until it had gone six, seven feet by."



Geoff Ogilvy (71 70 72 72, +5).

Tied second:

Mickelson (70 73 69 74, +6).

What happened: Mickelson turned choking into a surreal art-form with his collapse at Winged Foot. Colin Montgomerie also coughed up a victory chance that Sunday with double-bogey at the last, while Padraig Harrington's prospects expired as he finished with three straight bogeys.

Yet 54-hole leader MickelsoN outdid them all. Bogey out of a plugged lie in a greenside bunker at 16 was the harbinger.

Still, after saving par out of a trash can at 17, he led by one going to the last. Cue the 'Looney Toons' music! Mickelson carved his final drive so far right of the fairway it bounced back off the roof of a hospitality tent and into rough.

Then his kamikaze spirit took over as he attempted an improbable shot to the green.

He gambled and lost. Mickelson took double-bogey six. He'd gift-wrapped the trophy to Aussie Ogilvy.

LEFTY'S LAMENT: "I'm still in shock. I can't believe I did that. I'm such an idiot.

This is a tournament I dreamed of winning as a kid. I came out here months in advance to get ready and had it right there in my hand, man. It was right there and I let it go."



Lucas Glover (69 64 70 73, -4).

Tied second:

Mickelson (69 70 69 70, -2).

What happened: Yet again, New York turned out in force to cheer their swashbuckling hero ... and yet again he blundered down the stretch, this time on a Monday after endless rainstorms made a near-washout of the second US Open in seven years on Bethpage Black.

Hopes soared for Lefty among the massed galleries as he tied overnight leader Lucas Glover by following birdies at nine and 12 with a magical eagle three at 13. Yet Mickelson's putting let him down, a problem which would become more pronounced in subsequent years.

Mickelson missed a short one for birdie on 14, followed by a three-putt bogey at 15. Another decent birdie chance went abegging at 16 before a dropped shot at 17 left Glover two clear and comfortable.

Rather than dwell on his own frustration, Mickelson's thoughts were for his wife Amy as she waited to commence chemotherapy for breast cancer. Thankfully, it would prove successful.

LEFTY'S LAMENT: "It was kind of an emotional four or five days, there were a lot of ups and downs. Certainly I'm disappointed but now it's over I've got more important things going on."



Justin Rose (71 69 71 70, +1).

Tied second:

Mickelson (67 72 70 74, +3).

What happened: Mickelson shared the lead with Charl Schwartzel going into the final round but squandered a glorious opportunity to mark his 43rd birthday with a long-awaited US Open success.

Two three-putt double-bogeys on three and five rocked him, but Lefty gamely grabbed back the lead with an eagle at 10.

However, he ceded it to eventual winner Justin Rose with an awful bogey at 13, where he inexplicably hit a wedge over the green and into trouble.

Mickelson was dogged that afternoon by twitchy putting but most at Merion questioned this admirably aggressive golfer's ability to play the metronomic, 'boring' game necessary to win a US Open. Is this a pathological problem?

LEFTY'S LAMENT: "This is tough to swallow after coming so close. I really felt this was as good an opportunity I could ask for and not to get it hurts."

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