Sep 13, 2020
Bob HarigESPN Senior Creator
- Senior golf author for ESPN.com
- Covered golf for bigger than 20 years
- Earned Evans Scholarship to support Indiana University
The yell is being relived all all over again, with the total gory well-known formula. The wayward drive on the 72nd gap. The unwise decision to switch for the inexperienced. The depressed blueprint that would possibly perchance presumably well well now not even support salvage a bogey.
One in every of Phil Mickelson‘s hardest defeats has even extra which blueprint all these years later because the U.S. Originate returns to Winged Foot, location of his remaining-gap implosion in 2006.
It became a truly perfect opportunity for Mickelson to acquire the most attention-grabbing most necessary he has but to drawl, and it should always also just additionally be argued that it ranks amongst the sport’s perfect meltdowns.
Nevertheless it additionally supplied a rare probability to originate one thing infrequently ever done: inflict spoil to Tiger Woods when he became down.
With the exception of Woods’ myriad spoil concerns later in his profession, he doubtless became by no blueprint as prone as he became that week in 2006 at used Winged Foot, which is able to host the U.S. Originate for a sixth time. Each and every previous gallop has left lasting memories.
There became Bobby Jones’ 36-gap playoff victory in 1929. The first of two U.S. Opens for one of many game’s most underrated avid gamers, Billy Casper, in 1959. The “Massacre at Winged Foot” when Hale Irwin obtained in 1974 at 7 over par. Greg Norman‘s playoff loss to Fuzzy Zoeller in 1984.
For Mickelson, an huge opening closed. It became no longer comely a probability to acquire the U.S. Originate, it became additionally a probability to surpass Tiger. No longer on this planet rankings. No longer in profession victories. No longer in majors. It became a probability to be the tip dog and fade away the Mountainous Cat, for as soon as, chasing.
A victory at Winged Foot would dangle supposed three straight most necessary championships for Mickelson, a feat carried out comely three situations within the stylish era, as soon as by Woods six years earlier. It would dangle flipped the script, changed the memoir. Rather than Tiger chasing historical previous, it would possibly perchance perchance presumably well well dangle been Tiger chasing Phil.
Tiger had obtained four majors in a row in 2000-01, identified because the Tiger Slam. A Mickel-Slam had a uncommon roughly ring to it, but Phil didn’t care the blueprint it sounded.
Perchance extra subtly, a definite sense of pride would dangle been in lisp. For a most attention-grabbing segment of their careers, Woods viewed Mickelson as an tense gnat on his Nike shirt, to be flicked away with minute regard. He made a addiction of dismissing Phil as without yell as knocking the dirt out of his spikes.
As all of this drama unfolded at Winged Foot, Woods became but a footnote. He became mourning the loss of his father, Earl, who had died on Might perchance perchance well just 3 of that year, and arrived at Winged Foot unprepared, lacking the nick again for the first time in a necessary championship as a legit. His thoughts dangle been a truly perfect distance from the suburban New York direction, and for one of many rare situations in Woods’ historical profession, the eyes of the golf world weren’t centered on him.
“I will dangle told you principally sooner than we teed off on Thursday that it became going to be difficult,” acknowledged Steve Williams, Woods’ caddie on the time. “Making the nick again became going to be difficult. I would usually employ the weekend sooner than a necessary with him, and his be aware became completely no longer mighty. His fabricate became nowhere arrive where it well-known to be to acquire a U.S. Originate.
“Tiger became excellent in that he obtained so many of his tournaments without his easiest fabricate. Nevertheless there, it be well-known to dangle your A-game. And a quantity of situations he obtained with decrease than that. Nevertheless there, and with the yell of the direction, he didn’t dangle it.”
Mickelson had the stage to himself and stumbled into the orchestra pit. He crouched on the 18th inexperienced, a crumpled bundle of yellow immediate-sleeved shirt, unlit hat and grey slacks. He became embarrassed, in distress — and it became all self-inflicted.
Ogilvy became the beneficiary, his remaining-spherical 2-over 72 seemingly no longer adequate when he done. The Australian had by no blueprint obtained a necessary sooner than and would by no blueprint acquire a necessary all all over again — and would no longer originate high five in one other U.S. Originate.
When Ogilvy became making a 6-footer on the closing inexperienced for a fourth consecutive par, he would possibly perchance presumably well well now not dangle had an inkling that an hour later he’d be holding the U.S. Originate trophy, with Mickelson on the ceremony, silent down for the count.
“I fade to give an clarification for you what,” NBC analyst Johnny Miller acknowledged as he watched the carnage unfold, “Ben Hogan has formally rolled over in his grave.”
A par would dangle obtained it for Mickelson; a bogey would dangle supposed an 18-gap playoff the following day with Ogilvy. And who originate you maintain would dangle been liked in that scenario? Instead, Mickelson’s double-bogey 6 mark him the most attention-grabbing most necessary championship he has by no blueprint obtained.
With the acquire, Mickelson would dangle joined Hogan (1953) and Woods (2000) because the most attention-grabbing avid gamers within the stylish era to acquire three consecutive most necessary championships. No longer even the good Jack Nicklaus carried out that feat. Nor Arnold Palmer. Nor Sam Snead or Byron Nelson. Nor Tom Watson or Lee Trevino or Gary Participant.
And with this form of victory, Mickelson would dangle headed to The Originate at Royal Liverpool on the cusp of the unthinkable: matching Tiger’s feat of holding all four most necessary championships on the identical time. Nevertheless all that changed with a sequence of choices that also boggles the mind. Choices that are discussed and debated to in this point in time.
“I silent am in shock after I did that,” Mickelson acknowledged later to a roomful of journalists who dangle been comely as dazed. “I comely cannot maintain that I did that. I’m such an fool. I will’t maintain I could perchance presumably well well now not par the closing gap. It truly stings.”
A month later, when Mickelson confirmed up early to be aware at Royal Liverpool, he wasn’t making an attempt to cowl the distress.
“Wisely, I’m no longer going to ever fail to take into accout that,” he acknowledged. “I don’t think many of us that watched it potentially would possibly perchance presumably well well no longer both, but for me, I’d no longer ever fail to take into accout that.”
It would possibly perchance perchance truly presumably well well be not doubtless.
The stop became swift and merciless. Mickelson stayed within the scoring room for a most attention-grabbing whereas, consoled by his wife, Amy, and silent making an attempt to manufacture sense of all of it. Amy would later dispute he became in a trance. Truth be told, Mickelson had no longer played all that neatly at some stage within the closing spherical. He hit comely two fairways. Keeping the lead had been a minor miracle — despite the truth that it became usually the formulation Mickelson played the sport. It’s why his feeble longtime caddie, Jim “Bones” Mackay, silent says that whereas it became a crushing loss, it wasn’t the most crushing loss in a Mickelson profession stuffed with them.
“At least no longer to the stage it is doubtless you’ll imagine, since you perceive what? Or no longer it is far a 72-gap tournament,” Mackay acknowledged. “And it be a laborious gap. Or no longer it is pretty easy to claim you fabricate a 4 here and also you acquire the U.S. Originate. Or no longer it is no longer that straightforward. It’s doubtless you’ll presumably well well presumably also very neatly be taking half in a 460-yard par-4, and he became having disaster along with his ball- striking that day. There you fade. You’ve to play all of them.”
Mickelson’s tie for 2d — Montgomerie additionally blew a truly perfect probability to score into a playoff when he made a wide quantity of the closing gap, lacking the inexperienced with a 7-iron — marked the 21st time to that time he had done seventh or better in a necessary. And his Masters victory two months earlier became no longer making him truly feel better. No longer in anyway.
There dangle been assorted shut calls, but those defeats dangle been nothing like Winged Foot.
“This one hurts bigger than any [other] tournament because I had it obtained,” he acknowledged. “I had it in my make a selection and comely let it fade.”
Impartial over two years earlier, Mickelson had captured that elusive first most necessary, starting a inexperienced-jacket-sharing scramble with Woods that seemingly became following within the custom of the perfect avid gamers to reach sooner than them.
And despite the truth that Tiger would acquire two majors in 2005 — his first since 2002 — it became Phil who bagged the closing one of many year on the PGA Championship. When he added the Masters in 2006 — denying Woods a inexperienced jacket he dearly coveted — the 2 avid gamers had blended to acquire four of the closing nine majors.
When Woods obtained the Masters in 2005 — outlasting Chris DiMarco in a playoff after squandering a two-shot lead with two holes to switch — he paid tribute to his father. It became one of many rare situations when Woods published a human aspect. Earl Woods had no longer been able to manufacture it to the tournament attributable to illness.
“This one’s for Dad,” Woods acknowledged. “He is struggling. Because of this it supposed so grand for me to have the option to acquire this tournament, perchance give him a minute bit hope, a minute bit extra fireplace to protect combating.”
Woods obtained The Originate later that year at St. Andrews for his 10th most necessary title, and that became adopted by Mickelson’s PGA title at Baltusrol. And when they arrived at Augusta the following spring, Woods’ dad became all all over again on his mind as Phil prevailed.
It became his 2d consecutive most necessary and third within the closing nine, and Woods became there to place the inexperienced jacket on him, pissed off in his own incapacity to score it done, especially radiant that his dad became arrive demise.
“I’ve lost tournaments sooner than and I’ve been by some difficult defeats over time, but nothing like that, because I knew my dad would by no blueprint stay to survey one other most necessary championship,” Woods acknowledged a total lot of years later. “On the time, going into that remaining spherical on the support nine, I pressed and I attempted to manufacture putts as an replace of comely allowing it to happen. I attempted to pressure it.
“I know he became at house searching at, and I comely truly well-known to dangle him be a segment of 1 closing most necessary championship victory. And I didn’t score it done.”
All of that place the stage for Winged Foot, where Woods arrived rusty, having no longer played since the Masters. It had been decrease than six weeks since Earl died, and Woods understandably skipped tournaments along the formulation, electing to insist up on the U.S. Originate without grand preparation.
“I’m here to compete and play and take care of shut a survey at to acquire this championship,” he acknowledged. “I know that dad would silent desire me to grind it and provides it my easiest, and that is the reason what I continuously originate. That’s what I will completely are attempting and originate this week.”
Nevertheless Woods’ coronary heart — and game — became clearly no longer up to the duty. If ever he became uncovered, this became the time. It became no longer the identical Tiger, by a mile. He bogeyed his first three holes, hit comely three fairways for the spherical and did neatly to shoot a 6-over 76. The drive and the flexibility to focal point and block out distractions dangle been woefully lacking.
The next day, he double-bogeyed his fifth gap and the identical previous fight became gone. He shot one other 76 to fail to take into accout the nick again by three strokes, his first weekend off at a necessary since turning legit in 1996, breaking a hunch of 36 made cuts. Tiger became hurting, understandably so. And Phil became in location to pounce, to sit down atop the golf world with a third straight most necessary.
Nevertheless with Woods out of the image, Mickelson became unable to lift. At a time when Tiger would dangle stepped on necks to score the trophy, Phil would possibly perchance presumably well well most attention-grabbing sheepishly play that remaining gap with so grand at stake, ensuing in that trance-like daze. It became his fourth runner-up originate on the U.S. Originate (he would originate 2d on two extra occasions), but extra well-known, he had blown a golden opportunity for that third straight most necessary. It would take care of shut one other four years sooner than he’d acquire most necessary No. 4.
Making matter worse?
Woods would fade on to acquire that Originate at Royal Liverpool after which the PGA Championship at Medinah. Rather than Phil reigning with three straight majors, it became Tiger raining on Phil’s stalled parade.
“I’m such an fool,” Mickelson had acknowledged — phrases that would possibly perchance presumably well well linger for a truly long time.