Another US Open comes and goes for Phil Mickelson

‘There’s some opportunities coming up with the way I’ve been playing’

Phil Mickelson  after making par on the third hole during the third round of the  US Open at Torrey Pines golf course in San Diego, California. Photograph: Harry How/Getty Images

Phil Mickelson after making par on the third hole during the third round of the US Open at Torrey Pines golf course in San Diego, California. Photograph: Harry How/Getty Images

 

One of Phil Mickelson’s final acts of the 121st US Open at Torrey Pines was to play a wild approach shot to the 18th hole, so far right in fact that it finished amidst tents and other temporary infrastructure. A comedic bit-part was played out when a security man was instructed to guard the tee peg which Lefty had put on the Tarmac as he went off to find where his nearest point of relief would be.

Of course such actions were simply to play out the closing stage of a performance that had long reached its true conclusion; another US Open had come and gone, and Mickelson – a history-maker in winning the US PGA last month as a 50-year-old – would again have to look to the future if he is ever to complete the career Grand Slam.

At least there won’t be any need to go cap-in-hand to the USGA to seek any specials invitations. That PGA win has ensured he will be in the US Opens at The Country Club, Brookline (2022), the Los Angeles Country Club (2023), Pinehurst (2024) and Oakmont (2025).

Each one will in theory act as a possible venue for Mickelson to join Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Gary Player, Ben Hogan and Gene Sarazen as members of golf’s most exclusive club.

Where on past occasions he has gone close – with six runner-up finishes in his career (1999, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2009 and 2013) – to lifting the US Open trophy, this latest effort to do so proved to be anticlimactic as a final round 75 for a total of 11-over-par 295 left Mickelson cast adrift and finished long before those with true aspirations were called to the tee.

“I’m obviously disappointed I didn’t play better,” said Mickelson, who praised the course set-up on the South Course. “I’m very surprised that, in the 30 years that I’ve played the US Open, this is the best I’ve seen. The set-up is the best I’ve ever seen. That type of set-up allows the players who are playing well to make up ground or separate themselves from the field...they did a remarkable job of it all the way through, every single day, of having a good variety, and the setup is pristine.”

Final round

Clearly Mickelson didn’t fall into that category himself over the four championship days, where his play on the final round – finding only six of 14 fairways off the tee – told part of the story which contributed to his woes in that ongoing quest to win the one Major that has teased but eluded him.

With that US Open gone again for another year, Mickelson is intent to again return to the winner’s circle at upcoming events, with the 149th Open at Sandwich one of those on his hit list.

“There’s some opportunities coming up with the way I’ve been playing that I’m optimistic that I can compete and contend. There’s nothing more fun for me than to be in it on the weekend.

“I’ve actually been playing well enough to have chances, and we have some good tournaments coming up the next couple of months and afterwards, and I’ll look back [on the PGA win] and reminisce when the season is over. And I have some time in the off-season to not need to work on my game, and I’ll still have that Wanamaker trophy I’ll be looking at, and I’m still looking to add a friend to it along the line.

“That [PGA] win was very meaningful to me because I’ve been putting in a lot of work the last couple years and getting nothing out of it, and so to have a moment like that is something that makes it worthwhile.”

His next chance to get the “friend”, as he described it, to accompany his Wanamaker, Claret Jug and Masters trophy will come at Brookline next year.

Only 12 months to wait.

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