ARDMORE, Pa. – Phil Mickelson turned 43 on Sunday, a cruel reminder in light of his record sixth runner-up finish at the U.S. Open that his chances to claim that elusive championship are fading.
When the tale of the 2013 U.S. at Merion Golf is told years from now, Justin Rose’s steady hand on the way to his first major title and the impressive way in which the old course held up will be mentioned prominently. But ultimately, it will be Mickelson falling short again that will be remembered most.
Mickelson, who entered the final round with a 1-shot lead, did not gloss over the dejection he felt after shooting a 4-over 74 and losing to Rose by 2 strokes. “Heartbreak was the word he used most to describe his feelings.
“This one’s probably the toughest for me because at 43 and coming so close five times, it would have changed the way I would have looked at my record,” Mickelson said. “Except I just keep feeling heartbreak.”
If he had won, it would have been his fifth major title, along with three Masters titles and a PGA Championship, and he would have joined 13 other golfers to win three of the four legs of the modern career Grand Slam.
But the second-place finish – he tied Jason Day at 3 over – will now just join the other ones: watching Payne Stewart sink a putt to win at Pinehurst in 1999; never quite pushing Tiger Woods at Bethpage Black in 2002; losing to Retief Goosen at Shinnecock Hills in 2004; blowing a 2-shot lead on 18 at Winged Foot in 2006; and fading after a Sunday charge at Bethpage Black in 2009.
“This could have been 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 opportunities,” Mickelson said.
It seemed like all of Merion wanted Mickelson to win on his birthday, and, of course, Father’s Day. The fans serenaded him with “Happy Birthday” songs all day, and did their best to will him to victory. Despite the heartbreak for Mickelson, the crowd gave him a rousing ovation after yet another runner-up finish.