Phil Mickelson might not have many more chances like the one he was handed today in the final round of the U.S. Open. And that’s why his failure to win at Bethpage Black will be hard to forget. As difficult to accept as his Winged Foot 18th hole debacle three years ago? No way. But it’s still another Open that Mickelson let slip away down the stretch and he’ll think about it for a long time.
The golf tournament was won by Lucas Glover. His name will be etched in the trophy and there’s no taking the title away from him. And as straight as he hits it off the tee, he’s a definite threat to master the course at Augusta or avoid the terrors associated with a British Open. He won’t be a one-time major winner in his career, that’s almost a certainty.
Today, though, was never a certainty for Glover.
Mid-way through the back nine, it looked like Phil Mickelson would be flying cross country with the trophy in his private plane, as Lefty no-brained a 35-footer at #12 and then hit the shot of the tournament at #13, setting up a four-foot eagle putt that gave him a tie for the lead with Glover. And then David Duval entered the fray with three straight birdies at 14-15-16 and suddenly, this thing was set up to provide a memorable finish that would rival the ’08 Open at Torrey Pines.
But has almost always happened with Mickelson, the tournament came down to the putter. And, he lost. Mickelson’s professional achilles heel has been the exact opposite of what has made Woods the greatest player ever and owner of 14 major titles. Woods has always made the putts that won him golf tournaments. Mickelson misses them. Phil makes the long ones at 16 and 18 on Sunday, and at 12 today…but he can’t convert on the 3-footers and 8-footers that keep him alive or give him the lead. If you’re wondering why Phil has now had four brushes with the U.S. Open and still hasn’t won, you can look at the cookie cutter way he always comes up short. In the closing holes, he misses the key putt. Woods doesn’t. Never has, in fact. And today, at 15 and 17, Mickelson’s putter betrayed him at the worst possible time.
Duval would be the champion if not for a horrific 3rd hole in which he took six shots on a par 3 hole. His back nine rally was as captivating as anything on the course all day, but a 17th hole bogey, which came just as Glover was making birdie at 16, was the end of his dream.
Tiger Woods will look back with regret at his Friday morning collapse when he played the final four holes of his first round in +4 to open with a 74. He was the event’s best player thereafter, but it’s not a 3-round tournament.
And Ricky Barnes (remember him?) couldn’t hit a shot in the middle of the clubface virtually all day and yet was still a birdie-bogey finish (with Glover) from going into a playoff. His swing left him, his confidence never made it out of bed today and yet, Barnes handled his woes quite well, I thought. Simply put, his game is just not up to the 4-day standards of our national golf championship. It was inevitable that this would be the one that got away for the former U.S. Amateur champ.
In the end, Lucas Glover won the event because he drove the ball better than anyone in the field. This is, after all, the U.S. Open and hitting the fairway is a major premium. Glover’s putter was solid, if not streaky, and his final round was saved early on when he made a handful of 6-foot par putts (and one, for bogey, at 9) that kept him on top of the leaderboard. When you shoot even par on the back nine of a U.S. Open to hold on to the lead, you have, as they say, “golfed your ball”. Glover’s bogey at #15 today was the ONLY blemish on his scorecard for the last six holes over four days. Yep, you want the biggest reason why Lucas Glover won the U.S. Open? He played holes 13-thru-18 in five-under par…with 6 birdies and 1 bogey. That’s how you win, by playing the tough finishing holes in superb fashion like he did.
This is a U.S. Open that will be remembered for a long, long time. Crazy weather, players starting and stopping, going to the movies, twittering, etc. For a while, it looked like anything BUT a major championship.
Then, Monday dawned and the leaderboard was jam packed with stories and names and the last hour of golf was as good as it gets.