Massacre at Winged Foot Part II

By Mercer BaggsDecember 20, 2006, 5:00 pm
2006 Stories of the Year Editor's Note: TheGolfChannel.com is counting down its top 5 stories from the world of golf in 2006 and looking ahead to the five 'Big Questions' on the PGA TOUR in 2007. This is story No. 2 from this past season.
 
It doesnt take much to change perception. For if it did then it would take more than just a moment in time to alter how we feel about someone.
 
Prior to the start of the 106th U.S. Open, Phil Mickelson was perceived by many as the greatest golfer on the planet. He was the Masters champion. He was the winner of two consecutive major championships. He was a man of immense talent ' and immense confidence.
 
Phil Mickelson
Even Phil Mickelson could not believe what happened on the 72nd hole at Winged Foot.
All of that, combined with the fact that Tiger Woods, the No. 1-ranked player in the world, was making his first start in nine weeks, meant Mickelson was easily the man to beat at Winged Foot Golf Club that third week in June.
 
A Mickelson victory meant history. It meant three straight major victories, something only Woods had accomplished in the last 50 years. It meant talk of a MickelSlam. It meant that he would not just be Tigers chief rival ' he would, for a moment in time, wear the crown.
 
And thats how long it took for everything to change ' a moment.
 
For 71 holes, Mickelson scrapped his way around Winged Foot, battling a balky driver and inconsistency from the start. Nevertheless, he was in sole possession of the lead. One shot up on the field; one hole from living out a childhood fantasy.
 
Mickelson had been dreaming of winning the U.S. Open ever since he was a kid. He had been preparing for this moment ever since he finished his second Masters celebration. He had not only played preparatory rounds at Winged Foot, he had done so in the twilight hours, trying to mimic the conditions he would face should he be in the final group, playing the final hole in the final round, and doing so with a chance to win.
 
And here he was, just as he wanted to be.
 
A par seemed inevitable. After all, this was the new Phil Mickelson. The one who knew how to finish off major championships. The one who now received rewards without all the risk.
 
And when Colin Montgomerie ' oh, poor Colin Montgomerie ' butchered the hole in front of him, Destiny herself seemed ready to crown Mickelson.
 
It was to be a coronation. It was instead another massacre.
 
In the 1974 U.S. Open, Hale Irwin won at Winged Foot with a 7-over-par 287 score. Only seven players broke par that entire week. The late Dick Schaap, noted author and sportswriter, dubbed it The Massacre at Winged Foot.
 
Thirty-two years later, a reprisal seemed to be taking place. Only 11 players broke par over four rounds ' no one lower than 2-under 68. The course, with its newly implemented graduated rough, had ensnared the likes of defending champion Michael Campbell, Retief Goosen and Sergio Garcia. Chewing them up and spitting them out like stale gum before the weekend began.
 
The most notable player on that list of early exits was Woods. Playing for the first time since the death of his father, Woods could only manage a pair of 76s. It was his first missed cut in a major as a professional.
 
But it was what took place on Sunday that led to mouths agape, spirits shattered, and perceptions forever changed.
 
There was Jim Furyk, who missed a 5-foot par putt on the final hole which ultimately would have gotten him into a playoff. There was Padraig Harrington, who bogeyed his final three holes to finish two behind.
 
Then there was Monty, poor Monty. The man synonymous with major championship failure was tied for the lead while playing the par-4 18th. After successfully navigating a tee shot that didnt really fit his left-to-right ball flight, he found himself in the right side of the fairway, 172 yards from the hole.
 
With the pin placed on the back right of the green, he was now in perfect position for his power fade. A playoff was all but assured. An outright victory a real possibility.
 
As Monty was approaching his second shot, USGA officials brought out the trophy, placed it on a table, and let it sit to await its new owner.
 
Colin Montgomerie
This change of clubs helped cost Colin Montgomerie a chance to win his first major.
It would not be Monty.
 
One of the games all-time accurate players, Montgomerie came up sinfully short with a 7-iron (he had switched from a 6-iron). Pitching from rough alongside the right side of the green, he could do no better than get his third shot 40 feet from the pin. His par putt missed by 10 feet. His bogey putt missed as well.
 
There would be no playoff. There would be no major. There would only be what-ifs and coulda-beens.
 
After a cooling off period, Montgomerie emerged from the players locker room. He met with the media and answered all their questions. He said, I look forward to coming back here again next year and try another U.S. Open and then he paused, before adding, disaster.
 
Had things played out as expected, Montgomerie would have forever been mocked for his performance on the 18th hole. Instead, that role will forever be reserved for Mickelson.
 
Just as Monty made everyone forget about the failures of Furyk and Harrington; Mickelson returned the favor for the Scotsman.
 
Monty experienced a disaster on the final hole. Mickelson experienced a massacre.
 
Having hit only two fairways all round ' none on the back nine ' Mickelson opted for driver. He not only missed his 12th fairway of the day, he pushed his tee shot so far to the left that it caromed off a corporate hospitality tent.
 
His next shot hit a tree. But it wasnt the result that raised eyebrows and drew gasps; it was the decision to go for the green instead of pitch out safely back into the fairway.
 
Like an un-killable horror villain, Old Phil had returned to star in this nightmarish sequel.
 
Mickelsons second shot went about 25 yards. His third shot sailed left of the green and buried in a bunker. Two swings later, he was finally on the green. One putt thereafter, he was in with a double bogey.
 
Mickelson finished, as did Montgomerie and Furyk, at 6-over 286. One solitary swing behind Geoff Ogilvy.
 
Ogilvy was and will forever be the 2006 U.S. Open. He will also be a secondary figure in this tournaments summary, perhaps even tertiary.
 
Not that the 29-year-old Aussie didnt do his part to earn this title. He holed an 18-foot chip to save par on the 17th hole and then got up-and-down from off the green on the 18th for par ' a par for which Mickelson, Montgomerie and Furyk would have gladly paid double the winners prize of $1.225 million.
 
But even Ogilvy knows that this championship will forever be remembered not as the one he won, but as the one lost by Mickelson (primarily) and Montgomerie (secondarily).
 
If I had been watching on TV, I would be thinking Phil lost it. And Monty lost it just as much as Phil did, Ogilvy said at the TOUR Championship. But that's fine. I just feel fortunate there's plenty of guys who have done better than me on the last few holes and lost in major championships, so I just feel fortunate I was one of the lucky ones to have things go my way.
 
To his credit, Mickelson hung around for the trophy presentation ' the only one of the three runners-up to do so. He applauded Ogilvy and apologized to his New York fans.
 
Mickelson would not win over the remainder of the season, in fact, he would not even contend for a title. He took off the final three months of the year to recuperate.
 
Looking like a man sucker-punched by life, he fielded questions that fateful Sunday.
 
I am still in shock that I did that. I just cant believe that I did that, he said. Im such an idiot.
 
That final line was plastered on newspaper headlines across the world.
 
Idiot. Thats what Mickelson was calling himself. And he wasnt getting an argument from fans and press. In just a moments time, he had gone from king of the golf world to lowly court jester, a late-night talk show joke.
 
It doesnt take much to change perception.
 
Related Links:
  • Previewing 2006; Reviewing 2007
  • Mickelson Collapses at U.S. Open
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    Weather extends Barbasol to Monday finish

    By Associated PressJuly 23, 2018, 12:25 am

    NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - A thunderstorm has suspended the fourth round of the PGA Tour's Barbasol Championship until Monday morning.

    Sunday's third stoppage of play at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came with the four leaders - Hunter Mahan, Robert Streb, Tom Lovelady and Troy Merritt at 18 under par - and four other contenders waiting to begin the round.

    The tournament will resume at 7:30 a.m. on Monday. Lightning caused one delay, and play was stopped earlier in the afternoon to clear water that accumulated on the course following a morning of steady and sometimes-heavy rain.

    Inclement weather has plagued the tournament throughout the weekend. The second round was completed Saturday morning after being suspended by thunderstorms late Friday afternoon.

    The resumption will mark the PGA Tour's second Monday finish this season. Jason Day won the Farmers Insurance Open in January after darkness delayed the sixth playoff hole, and he needed just 13 minutes to claim the victory.

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    Watch: Spectator films as Woods' shot hits him

    By Will GrayJuly 23, 2018, 12:07 am

    It was a collision watched by millions of fans on television, and one that came at a pivotal juncture as Tiger Woods sought to win The Open. It also gave Colin Hauck the story of a lifetime.

    Hauck was among dozens of fans situated along the left side of the 11th hole during the final round at Carnoustie as the pairing of Woods and Francesco Molinari hit their approach shots. After 10 holes of nearly flawless golf, Woods missed the fairway off the tee and then pulled his iron well left of the target.

    The ball made square contact with Hauck, who hours later tweeted a video showing the entire sequence - even as he continued to record after Woods' shot sent him tumbling to the ground:

    The bounce initially appeared fortuitous for Woods, as his ball bounded away from thicker rough and back toward the green. But an ambitious flop shot came up short, and he eventually made a double bogey to go from leading by a shot to trailing by one. He ultimately shot an even-par 71, tying for sixth two shots behind Molinari.

    For his efforts as a human shield, Hauck received a signed glove and a handshake from Woods - not to mention a firsthand video account that will be sure to spark plenty of conversations in the coming years.

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    Molinari retirement plan: coffee, books and Twitter

    By Will GrayJuly 22, 2018, 9:35 pm

    After breaking through for his first career major, Francesco Molinari now has a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour, a 10-year exemption in Europe and has solidified his standing as one of the best players in the world.

    But not too long ago, the 35-year-old Italian was apparently thinking about life after golf.

    Shortly after Molinari rolled in a final birdie putt to close out a two-shot victory at The Open, fellow Tour player Wesley Bryan tweeted a picture of a note that he wrote after the two played together during the third round of the WGC-HSBC Champions in China in October. In it, Bryan shared Molinari's plans to retire as early as 2020 to hang out at cafes and "become a Twitter troll":

    Molinari is active on the social media platform, with more than 5,600 tweets sent out to nearly 150,000 followers since joining in 2010. But after lifting the claret jug at Carnoustie, it appears one of the few downsides of Molinari's victory is that the golf world won't get to see the veteran turn into a caffeinated, well-read troll anytime soon.

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    Molinari had previously avoided Carnoustie on purpose

    By Rex HoggardJuly 22, 2018, 9:17 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Sometimes a course just fits a player’s eye. They can’t really describe why, but more often than not it leads to solid finishes.

    Francesco Molinari’s relationship with Carnoustie isn’t like that.

    The Italian played his first major at Carnoustie, widely considered the toughest of all The Open venues, in 2007, and his first impression hasn’t really changed.

    “There was nothing comforting about it,” he said on Sunday following a final-round 69 that lifted him to a two-stroke victory.


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    In fact, following that first exposure to the Angus coast brute, Molinari has tried to avoid Carnoustie, largely skipping the Dunhill Links Championship, one of the European Tour’s marquee events, throughout his career.

    “To be completely honest, it's one of the reasons why I didn't play the Dunhill Links in the last few years, because I got beaten up around here a few times in the past,” he said. “I didn't particularly enjoy that feeling. It's a really tough course. You can try and play smart golf, but some shots, you just have to hit it straight. There's no way around it. You can't really hide.”

    Molinari’s relative dislike for the layout makes his performance this week even more impressive considering he played his last 37 holes bogey-free.

    “To play the weekend bogey-free, it's unthinkable, to be honest. So very proud of today,” he said.