How Bizarre How Bizarre

By Mercer BaggsJune 18, 2006, 4:00 pm
U.S. OpenMAMARONECK, N.Y. -- Phil Mickelson walked off the 18th green on the West Course at Winged Foot Country Club Sunday trying to smile his smile, but looking more like a man unaware that he was suffering from a head injury.
His swing coach, Rick Smith, looked like he had just caught his parents in an compromising situation and would never get the image out of his mind.
Phil Mickelson
Phil Mickelson stands in disbelief after double bogeying the final hole Sunday.
Im in shock, Smith said, unable to hide the disbelief in his voice. Total shock.
How can you possibly describe this? asked one reporter rhetorically. 'Shock' is a good answer. Or perhaps bizarre. Or maybe just a simple wow.
The scene was quiet, somber, even a bit solemn. It was not befitting the normal conclusion to a major championship.
But, then again, there was nothing normal about the conclusion to the 106th U.S. Open.
At 6:37 p.m. ET, USGA officials brought the U.S. Open trophy to a table near the 18th green to await its new owner.
It would not be Mickelson. It would not be Colin Montgomerie.
Montgomerie was tied for the lead when he started the 18th. He then proceeded to make double-bogey from the fairway, his indecision leading to one of the worst iron shots of his life.
Mickelson had a one-shot lead by the time he reached 18. He then, too, made double-bogey.
His playing of the final hole was a farce, involving corporate tents, well-struck trees, fried-egg lies, and more than anything ' just, plain poor execution.
The last on that list is what is going to make this event, in the minds of both Mickelson and Montgomerie ' and just about everybody else who bore witness ' so memorable for so long for such the wrong reason.
This one hurts more than any tournament, because I had it won,' Mickelson said. 'This one is going to take a little while to get over.
Montgomerie expressed similar sentiments just minutes before: This is as difficult as it gets,' he said. 'You wonder sometimes why you put yourself through this.
Its easy to understand their respective despair. Mickelson was not only trying to accomplish something that only Tiger Woods and Ben Hogan have done over the last seven-plus decades by winning three straight majors; he was trying to live out a childhood fantasy.
I think the biggest reason why this is so disappointing is that this is a tournament that I dreamt of winning as a kid, that I spent countless hours practicing ' I mean, countless hours practicing, dreaming of winning this tournament, said Mickelson, who is now a four-time U.S. Open runner-up.
I am still in shock that I did that. I just cant believe that I did that, he said. Im such an idiot.'
Montgomerie didn't define himself in such terms, but the disappointment from a man who has never won a major championship was equally evident.
I look forward to coming back here again next year and try another U.S. Open,' he said, before pausing and adding, 'disaster.
Amidst all the gloom, there was Geoff Ogilvy, a likeable and friendly Australian, who watched himself become a major champion on a television monitor in the clubhouse locker room. He kissed and hugged his pregnant wife, and then made the rounds.
'I think I was the beneficiary of a little bit of charity. I think I got a bit lucky,' said the modest Ogilvy, who did his part by chipping in for par on 17 and getting up-and-down for par on 18 to win by one.
Why everything worked out that way, I dont know.'
Ogilvy, who turned 29 a week ago Sunday, made a name for himself earlier this year by winning the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. But on June 18, 2006, around 7:30 p.m., everything changed.
Geoff Ogilvy
Geoff Ogilvy is the first Aussie to win a major since Steve Elkington in the '95 PGA Champ.
The whole world changes, said Ben Curtis.
And Curtis would know. He became a major champion, literally out of nowhere, at the 2003 Open Championship. And life hasnt since been the same.
Theres expectations for you to go out there and win every week, and, as players know, you cant do that,' Curtis said. 'Wed like to go out there and perform at the highest level each week, but we all cant do that.
He also added: You change as well.'
Curtis was in his rookie year on the PGA TOUR when he triumphed at Royal St. Georges. He was not fully prepared to handle everything that comes along with being labeled a major champion. He wasnt ready for the responsibilities, the obligations, the decisions he had to make, the overwhelming expectations.
Time will tell with Ogilvy. Right now, hes just trying to process everything.
Its pretty hard to believe, he said. Obviously, you dream about winning major championships, and to actually have it happen .
Curtis advice to the new champ: I think you have to stay focused, keep grinding like you did before, because, obviously, thats what got you there.
And thats what got Ogilvy this title.
I dont drive it straight, said Ogilvy, who hit only six fairways in shooting 2-over 72 to finish at 5 over. But Ive always been decent at grinding it out when par has been a good score. If you really set your mind to it and have the right attitude about it, it can be quite enjoyable.
Which cannot be said about the experiences endured by Mickelson and Montgomerie.
Ironically, in this aftermath of devastation, the men who brought new meaning to 'The Massacre at Winged Foot' provided two of the most impressive performances of their careers.
After slipping into a change of clothes and watching the tournament play out, Montgomerie talked to the media, and did so honestly and respectfully. For once, he was a gracious loser. And, he was sportsmanlike following a very difficult defeat.
He paid tribute to the crowd, even though there were a few jeers during his round and even some cheers when he plunked his approach shot into the gunk on 18. He gave praise to Ogilvy and didnt blame anyone for this loss, except himself.
This is the first time Ive really messed up, he said, referencing the fact that his other major defeats occurred because he was out-played.
After talking with the press, Monty smiled, said cheers, and walked away.
Mickelson, who was also quite gracious in defeat, even attending the championship ceremony to publicly congratulate Ogilvy and apologize to his fans, thanked the media after fielding 23 questions. He then wrapped his arm around his wifes shoulders and began his own grieving process..
Not long after, Ogilvy, who became the first Aussie since Steve Elkington in the 1995 PGA Championship to win a major, tried to put it all into words.
I didnt think it was going to be me, but you never think its going to be you, he said, and then summarized everything. Its kind of bizarre.
Even major champions dont have all the answers.
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