He wound up going home.
Mickelson added to his reputation for taking risks Saturday in the Match Play Championship, but it blew up in his face when he took bogey on the 18th hole and lost to Davis Love III in the quarterfinals at La Costa Resort.
'It's a shame it ended that way,' Love said.
The match was the most exciting and volatile of the week. One of the players won 14 of the 18 holes, and there were four lead changes. Love birdied two straight holes for an early lead, and Mickelson answered with three straight birdies.
Ultimately, it came down to the 558-yard 18th hole.
The match was all square, and Mickelson hammered a drive down the middle of the fairway. Love sent his drive into the right rough and had to lay up, some 160 yards from the pin.
Was this the time for Mickelson to go for the green?
'Absolutely, yeah,' he said.
What followed was a bad shot, some bad luck and ultimately a bogey.
'Obviously, after Davis missed the fairway and had to lay up, I had 254 (yards to the) front, and a good 3-wood could have gotten the ball on the green,' Mickelson said. 'A two-putt birdie should have been able to win. He would have had a long putt.'
Mickelson was only partially right. Love had a long birdie putt.
'I pull-hooked it,' Mickelson continued, 'and made 6.'
It was a risky decision, although Mickelson has been swinging the club well enough that he could probably hit that green -- or at least land harmlessly in the bunkers -- a majority of the time.
This one turned into a disaster.
It hooked sharply to the right and landed in thick grass, 50 yards from the flag with a pine tree in his way. There was no point going under the branches because of the bunker guarding the green.
Mickelson tried a flop shot, but the ground was softer than he realized. The ball floated into the tree, ricocheted among the branches and plopped down into more rough.
His fourth shot went through the green, about 25 feet away.
Love hit his approach to 30 feet and rolled it close enough that his par was conceded.
Mickelson's par putt to extend the match never had a chance.
'It was a disappointing day,' Mickelson said. 'I felt like I was playing better than that. I made five bogeys, and it's very disappointing.'
Mickelson left La Costa with a tie for fifth, starting his season with five straight top 10s for the first time in his career. Still, his aggressive play on the 18th is sure to raise more questions about his decision-making.
He has worked hard on the distance control of his wedges. The safe shot would have been to lay up 100 yards from the green, a distance from which few players are better than Mickelson.
One thing remains certain: He sends the gallery home with something to talk about.
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