ARDMORE, Pa. – At the major that has dealt him so much heartbreak over the years, Phil Mickelson now has his best chance ever to win the U.S. Open.
For starters, he’s never led heading into the final round of the year’s second major, where he has finished second a record five times.
But being the frontrunner doesn’t guarantee a Lefty victory, however. Far from it.
Since the start of 2012, Mickelson is 1 of 4 in converting 54-hole leads into victories (lone exception was this year in Phoenix). Granted, he’s been a better closer in majors, winning three of the four times that he has held at least a share of the 54-hole lead. Incredibly, this is only the second time (’06 Masters) that Lefty has been alone at the top at a major after three rounds.
Here are some other numbers to ponder before the final pairing of Mickelson and Hunter Mahan tees off at 3:20 p.m. ET.
• Mickelson’s final-round scoring average at the Open (73.20) is more than a half-stroke higher than any of his other rounds (72.60 in Round 3). His pre-cut scoring average is 71.57.
• In the 20 Open starts in which Mickelson has played the weekend, he has shot par or better on the final day seven times, though only one of those rounds was in the 60s (a final-round 68 in 2008, when he tied for 18th).
• In the five Opens in which he has finished second (1999, 2002, ’04, ’06 and ’09), Mickelson has a final-day scoring average of 71.0 and has shot worse than 71 only once – the infamous 74 at the 2006 Open at Winged Foot.
• Since 1999, when he was topped by Payne Stewart in the first of his five runners-up, Mickelson’s final-round scoring average at the Open is 72.62.
• In the 15 of 17 Open starts in which he has played the weekend, Steve Stricker boasts a final-round scoring average of 72.33. He has shot higher than 74 only once (a 76 in 2007), and in back-to-back years he has fired a sub-par score on the final day, resulting in consecutive top-20 finishes at the Open.
• Charl Schwartzel is one of only two players in the top 15 who have won a major (2011 Masters). He has made five of six cuts at the Open, and his final-round scoring average is 72.60, a figure skewed significantly by his closing 66 in 2011. Other than that, he hasn’t broken 73.
• Hunter Mahan doesn’t own a strong Open record, having made only four of seven cuts. His final-round scoring average is 73.50, with no score of par or better.
• Justin Rose has survived only three of seven cuts at the Open. He has a final-round scoring average of 72.33, on the strength of his closing 69 in 2003 (T-5 finish).
• Luke Donald, the former world No. 1, has never finished in the top 10 at the Open, so it is little surprise that he has a poor Sunday record here, too. His final-round scoring average is 74.20, including scores of 78 and 80. In 2011, he closed with 69 at Congressional.