US Open title would be Phil Mickelson’s crowning glory
If Phil Mickelson was asked to pick the one title in golf he wants more than any other there would not be the slightest hesitation in his answer.
The United States Open is it and this Thursday — his 41st birthday — Mickelson will begin his 21st attempt to be crowned champion.
“As a kid I dreamt of winning this tournament,” he has often said. But so far it has given him more heartache than any other.
The pain would be far worse, of course, if Mickelson had not lifted three Masters and one US PGA, but a record five second places — and one in particular — are just as vivid memories as those triumphs.
The one in particular was Winged Foot five years ago.
Coming into the event on the back of victories at the PGA the previous season and Augusta that April, the chance was there to make it three majors in a row.
Mickelson, ranked second at the time, needed a closing par once Colin Montgomerie had double-bogeyed the last but, in the space of 10 minutes he fervently wishes he could have again, he also took six after carving his drive.
Almost unbelievably, Geoff Ogilvy was left as the winner.
“I still am in shock that I did that — I am such an idiot,” said the left-hander at the time.
“This one hurts more than any tournament because I had it won. I had it in my grasp and just let it go. This one is going to take a little while to get over.”
Previously Mickelson had been beaten in 1999 when Payne Stewart made a 15-foot par putt on the final green, in 2002 when Woods won by three and in 2004 when a double bogey at the 17th led to him losing by two to Retief Goosen.
And since 2006 there has been one more runners-up finish — two years ago when he admitted he had more important things on his mind than the bogeys at the 15th and 17th that left him two behind Lucas Glover.
Mickelson was about to take a break from the game to care for wife Amy after her diagnosis of breast cancer and he said: “I'm certainly disappointed but I think maybe it's more in perspective for me because I feel different this time.”
The biggest concern has been his recent form. Mickelson won the week before The Masters, but managed only 27th place there and ninth is his best in three starts since.
It is no surprise, though, to see him placed third in the betting just behind England's Luke Donald and Lee Westwood. They are the game's current top two on the rankings — but neither has a major yet.