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?
By RYAN LAVNER
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.
By REX HOGGARD
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.
By WILL GRAY
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.
By JASON SOBEL
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.
By JAY COFFIN
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.