Phil Mickelson grabbed the U.S. Open lead on Sunday, briefly pulling himself out of the second place backlog that has dominated his Open career. As has happened five times previously, however, Mickelson was the runner-up by the evening’s end, chasing after a shot only to watch it drift too wide, taking with it his chance at the coveted trophy that went to Justin Rose.
“For me it's very heart breaking,” Mickelson said. “This could have been the big ‑‑ a really big turnaround for me on how I look at the U.S. Open and the tournament that I'd like to win, after having so many good opportunities.”
A personal attachment to the Merion Golf Course fed into his disappointment as well, adding an additional sting to the second place tie with Jason Day. “…this week was my best opportunity, I felt, heading in, certainly the final round, the way I was playing and the position I was in.”
Mickelson refused to blame the course, heaping compliments on Merion, the merits of which for a modern Open had been widely speculated. “I thought that the golf course was fabulous. We had weather and we had some conditions with Sunday pins, it was difficult. But I thought that it was really well done and, you know, it was ‑‑ I loved having the hard holes be really hard. And I loved having chances on the birdie holes.”
Another tough finish for the lefty seemed to leave him emotional, speaking with a rather final sense of defeat. He seemed to believe this year, on this course, had been his best chance to achieve what has become his white whale. His shot from 75 yards out on the 10th hole - which had rocketed him into the lead - had been an especially optimistic moment.
“This could have been the big ‑‑ a really big turnaround for me on how I look at the U.S. Open and the tournament that I'd like to win, after having so many good opportunities,” Mickelson said.
“Also playing very well here and really loving the golf course, this week was my best opportunity, I felt, heading in, certainly the final round, the way I was playing and the position I was in. But this one's probably the toughest for me, because at 43 and coming so close five times, it would have changed the way I look at this tournament altogether and the way I would have looked at my record.”
“If I never get The Open, then I look back and I think that ‑‑ every time I think of the U.S. Open, I just think of heartbreak.”