Punch Shot: Will Mickelson ever win a U.S. Open?

By Ryan LavnerJune 18, 2013, 12:10 pm

The 113th U.S. Open delivered more heartbreak to Phil Mickelson, now a six-time runner-up at the year’s second major.

We asked our GolfChannel.com panel of writers: After witnessing this latest close call, do you think Lefty will ever win the U.S. Open?


This was Phil Mickelson’s best chance to win the major he covets most, and he knew it.

For the first time, he was leading the U.S. Open outright heading into the final day. It was his 43rd birthday and, yes, it was Father’s Day, a picture-perfect scenario given his good-dad globetrotting on the eve of the tournament. Fans in the Northeast love Phil, they adore him, and they desperately wanted to see him succeed. And, perhaps more importantly, Merion was a course he enjoyed, a setup and challenge he relished, even telling the USGA’s Mike Davis that on the first hole Thursday. He thought he had the perfect game plan – no driver, an extra wedge. And he thought he had the spark he needed – a hole-out wedge shot on the 10th to regain a one-shot lead.

Because if Phil Mickelson couldn’t win this Open, at this time, under those circumstances, well, then he never would.

The arthritic 43-year-old is running out of chances, his silver collection now more expansive than Zales. Sadly, he knew it, too: “This could have been a really big turnaround for me on how I look at the U.S. Open,” he said afterward.

What will he see and remember now? Only more heartbreak.


Yes, this one hurt. Maybe even more than 1999 and 2006 and 2009, but those who think that Sunday at Merion was his last chance to heal his Open pain haven’t been paying attention.

Mickelson’s sixth runner-up showing may have been his best chance to win his national championship, but it won’t be his last. Not the way he’s swinging right now and not with the lineup of Open venues the next few years.

Next year the U.S. Open will be played at Pinehurst, where Mickelson finished second to Payne Stewart in 1999, and in 2018 the championship returns to Shinnecock Hills, where he was runner-up to Retief Goosen in 2004.

In five years, Mickelson will be 48 years old, perhaps past his prime but hardly outside of the margin of error considering what Tom Watson, Fred Couples and Greg Norman have done competitively well into their golden years.

“He is swinging the club as good as I’ve ever seen him hit it,” Butch Harmon, Mickelson’s swing coach, said this week at Merion.

Mickelson, who turned 43 on Sunday, is still among the longest players on Tour (he ranks 59th in driving this season) and said this week that he’s as healthy as he’s ever been.

Time is running out on Lefty’s U.S. Open dream, but he’s not finished yet.


While Phil Mickelson’s career deserves to include a U.S. Open Championship at some point, the fact remains that it will likely conclude without Lefty’s hands ever touching the trophy.

Now a runner-up six times over, Mickelson will be days shy of his 44th birthday when the season’s second major returns to Pinehurst next summer. While the four-time major winner has had success on the Donald Ross course – he received the first of his six silver medals at Pinehurst in 1999, when he fell one shot short of Payne Stewart’s winning total – only six players have won majors during the modern era at 44 years of age or older.

Currently sixth in the world, Mickelson is certainly capable of winning tournaments and competing against elite fields, as evidenced by his performance this week at Merion. His window to add a fifth major title, though, is closing by the month. While the U.S. Open rotation will soon return to a pair of courses where Mickelson has also finished second – Shinnecock Hills in 2018 and Winged Foot in 2020 – Lefty will be 48 and 50 years old, respectively, when those events are contested.

Mickelson has had no shortage of chances to capture the national championship, but his multitude of close calls serve to reflect an undeniable conclusion: his best chances to win the trophy that has most eluded him have now passed.


I don't think Phil Mickelson is going to win a U.S. Open.

Yes, I realize that in this space just a few days ago, prior to the final round at Merion, I picked Mickelson to win. I thought it was his time. I thought it was destiny. I thought it was going to happen.

It didn't, obviously, and afterward it seemed like he was somewhat resigned to the fact that it never will. 'I think this was my best chance,” he said after a sixth career runner-up finish.

Mickelson will turn 44 the week of next year's U.S. Open. He'll certainly be a viable candidate at Pinehurst, site of the first of those six runners-up, when the tourney returns next year, but keep in mind that only one winner (Hale Irwin in 1990) was older.

It's certainly possible that Mickelson can still reverse the destiny he's found so far, but I'm starting to think his U.S. Open legacy will comparable to that of Greg Norman at the Masters. And I'm starting to think Mickelson is thinking that, too. 


If the golf gods had a heart, they’d allow Phil Mickelson to win the U.S. Open next year at Pinehurst, the place where he first finished second (1999) in the epic finish against Payne Stewart. Then again, if the golf gods had a heart, Mickelson would already have collected at least one Open crown.

That’s why, sadly, Merion was Lefty’s last chance to win his beloved national championship.

Mickelson has had his chances – six to be precise. He coughed up some, others were taken from him. All were equally devastating. But now, at 43 years old, Father Time is 2 up on Mickelson. He can still win the match, but the odds aren’t in his favor.

The Merion Open produced great theater. Phil haters became Phil lovers because they all realized the importance of this crown to him and his legacy.

It didn’t happen, though. It probably won’t.

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Football coach hates golf: Don't need practice swearing

By Jason CrookApril 20, 2018, 10:15 pm

Some football coaches are a little more talkative than others. On one side of the spectrum, there's Bill Belichick. On the other sits Washington State football coach Mike Leach.

Leach always delivers the goods, and when asked recently if he liked golf, he didn't hold back:

As wrong as the 57-year-old is on the topic (golf is awesome), the man makes some hilarious points:

• “It’s boring. I don’t care where that ball goes.”

• "Golfers are always practicing their swing. But you know what I never did? I never practice fishing in my living room.”

• "They'll line up over the ball and they'll say they're going to do something that you can't do with a sniper rifle and a scope, but they're going to do it with a stick and a ball."

• “Golf’s pretty much for people that don’t swear effectively enough or need practice. And so there are people that need golf, and I don’t think I do.”

So in conclusion, it's confirmed: Mike Leach - not a golf guy.

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Quiros takes 1-shot lead in Morocco

By Associated PressApril 20, 2018, 8:22 pm

RABAT, Morocco - Alvaro Quiros shot a solid 2-under 70 in windy conditions to push into a one-shot lead after two rounds of the Trophee Hassan II in Morocco on Friday.

Quiros fought the elements, carding seven birdies and five bogeys to move to 7 under overall and take the outright lead at the halfway point of the European Tour event.

The Spaniard was one clear of Andrew Dodt, who moved into contention with a 4-under 68 at the Royal Golf Dar Es Salam course. Dodt dropped two shots in his first six holes but the Australian recovered from that shaky start to collect four birdies and an eagle.

Full-field scores from the Trophee Hassan II

Erik van Rooyen of South Africa was another shot back in third on 5 under after his 71.

Bradley Dredge of Wales, who shared the first-round lead with Quiros, slipped off the pace with a 1-over 73. He's tied for fourth with Austin Connelly of Canada (71), 4 under par and three shots behind Quiros.

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Bogey-free Moore shares Valero lead

By Will GrayApril 20, 2018, 8:20 pm

Amid the swirling winds on a difficult track at the Valero Texas Open, Ryan Moore has yet to blink.

Moore was one of only two players among the 156-man field to go bogey-free during the opening round at TPC San Antonio, and he's now the only player still boasting a clean scorecard after a second-round 67 that included five birdies and the rest pars. At 9 under, the veteran shares the lead with Zach Johnson and was three shots clear of any other player at the end of the morning wave.

"Really, around this golf course what matters is the right distance," Moore told reporters. "You can get in some pretty tough spots if you're long and short. So I kind of hit it the right distance all day, gave myself plenty of good birdie opportunities and didn't stress myself out too much with too many up-and-downs."

While many players struggle to find a true offseason, Moore took nearly three months off between starts at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba and Waste Management Phoenix Open. During that time he shed nearly 20 pounds thanks to changes to his diet and teamed up with a new swing coach, Drew Steckel, in December.

The results have been solid if not spectacular, as Moore tied for fifth at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and finished T-16 last week at the RBC Heritage.

"It's been solid golf, especially the last few weeks. I haven't got a ton out of it," Moore said. "The putter just wasn't there. So this week, just got a little more comfortable with the putter and knocked a few putts in that kind of matter early in my rounds, and it's going in. That's kind of what's been missing lately."

Moore had a breakthrough season in 2016 that included his victory at the John Deere Classic and spot on the Ryder Cup team, but he hasn't sniffed career win No. 6 since a T-3 finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions 16 months ago. Should he keep a clean card this weekend in San Antonio, his chances to end that victory drought appear bright.

"I played some really nice golf yesterday, I just controlled the ball nicely all the way around and was bogey-free yesterday, so thought, 'Let's go try and do that again,'" Moore said. "So to play in tough, windy conditions, to go bogey-free (again), it was some good solid golf."

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Former champ Z. Johnson surges at Valero

By Will GrayApril 20, 2018, 7:31 pm

Midway through his opening round at the Valero Texas Open, Zach Johnson appeared far closer to a missed cut than a spot on the leaderboard.

Johnson initially struggled in the winds at TPC San Antonio, playing his first 13 holes in 3 over. But he eagled No. 14 and closed with three more birdies to post a 2-under 70, then went unconscious during a second-round 65 where he made six birdies over his first 10 holes.

It added up to a 9-under total at the halfway point, and instead of packing his bags the two-time major champ now shares the lead with Ryan Moore.

"You just never know. That's the beauty of this game," Johnson told reporters. "I didn't have anything going putting-wise. I felt like I was hitting some solid shots and wasn't getting rewarded, and you've just got to stay in it. You've got to persevere, grind it out, fight for pars. Shoot, I made some good pars all while being 3 over. You just never know."

Johnson won this event in both 2008 and 2009, but that was when it was held across town at La Cantera Golf Club. Since the switch to TPC San Antonio in 2010, he has only one top-10 finish and two missed cuts, including last year's early exit with consecutive rounds of 74.

But Friday he played like a man unaware of the venue shift, with four straight birdies on Nos. 12-15 and a hole-out eagle from the greenside bunker on the par-4 fifth hole. His closing bogey on No. 9 was his first dropped shot in the last 25 holes.

"The confidence is there, and when you can step on the tee with this kind of wind, you trust your clubs and trust your ball, that's pretty important," Johnson said. "I felt good. It was hard, I'm not going to deny that. That was one of the better 27-hole stretches that I've had in a long time."

Johnson's 65 was his first sub-70 score since an opening-round 69 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, a span of 12 stroke-play rounds. The veteran has made every cut in 11 starts this season, but his T-8 finish at the RSM Classic in November remains his only top-10 finish.

"I felt really good coming into the week," Johnson said. "Confidence was there, it just wasn't showing up on the scorecard."