COMMENTARY -- Phil Mickelson get yet another tie he didn't want on Father's Day. A tie for second place in the U.S. Open.
The world's No. 1 Dad was No. 2 on the leaderboard at Merion.
The one-liners are easy. Putting a positive spin on a record sixth runner-up finish in the national Open? Almost impossible.
Mickelson was finally supposed to win the Open. This was his. How could it not be? Who was going to beat him? A 46-year-old part-time golfer? The guy who flubbed away the 2010 Ryder Cup? A guy wearing octopus-print pants? The guy who, not too long ago, resorted to putting with his eyes closed?
As it turns out, it was the last guy. It was Justin Rose's time, capturing the U.S. Open at 1-over-par 281. A steely resolve and brimming confidence combined to give Rose just enough fortitude to make a closing par at the 18th hole and force Mickelson to be the player to break an 0-for-145 birdie-less streak at the East Course's daunting finish.
Instead, Mickelson made it 0-for-146 at No. 18 and 0-for-23 in the U.S. Open.
Snakebitten? That was Snead. Maybe for Mickelson the proper term is phrankenfished.
Mickelson's losses in the U.S. Open have come in myriad ways, kind of like the mutant fish combines gnarly aspects of snake and fish. To complete the beast that haunts Mickelson, add in a little the human aspect. Stitched together, it explains the story of the left-hander in this championship.
It began in '99, with Payne Stewart nipping Mickelson with a 20-footer on the final hole at Pinehurst No. 2. Snake.
Three years later, Mickelson was serenaded on his birthday by the Long Island crowd at Bethpage Black...all the way to a solo second-place finish to Tiger Woods, then the greatest hunter in golf. Fish.
A couple of years after that, Retief Goosen putted like God on back nine at Shinnecock Hills to deny Mickelson the U.S. Open yet again. Snake.
In 2006, Mickelson had the U.S. Open in his hands on the 72nd tee at Winged Foot, but with one wild swing of the driver, he dropped it and instead choked himself. Human.
Once again at Bethpage in 2009, Mickelson had his chances in a Monday finish, but was too far behind to catch Lucas Glover, who 6-ironed his way through the last hole to capture his only major. The consolation prize? He owned the record most runner-up finishes in the U.S. Open. Fish, since he ran out of water in which to swim.
So what's this Open?
Snake? No. Asps don't bite players who make eagles.
Fish? Maybe. Phil burnt so many edges on Sunday that it's hard to argue his ball was swimming in a different pond.
Human? Seems so. Phil's big mistakes -- the two double bogeys on Nos. 3 and 5 -- were partially undone by the magic he created at No. 10. But it was a pair of shots from inside 125 yards that did Mickelson in, first at the 13th, then at the 15th. Both brought about bogeys, which was the difference between a playoff and a six-pack of runner-up finishes.
Now, Mickelson is left to wait another year for the Open, only to have to return to where this heartbreaking decade-and-a-half began, at Pinehurst No. 2.
Pinehurst No. 2 has been reborn, redesigned by architects Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore. Maybe that's where Mickelson is to finally exorcise all of those shoulder-slumping, head-grabbing moments. Maybe that's where Mickelson will no longer have to be gracious in defeat as someone else celebrates winning a championship they don't desire in nearly the same way he does.
Maybe Mickelson's torment in the U.S. Open doesn't run back to Pinehurst, however. Maybe it goes all the way back to the beginning.
Phil Mickelson was born on this day 43 years ago in 1970. Englishman Tony Jacklin won this championship five days later. How fitting, perhaps then, that an Englishman denied Mickelson.
Father's Day? Birthday? No. It's Groundhog Day.
Ryan Ballengee is a Washington, D.C.-based golf writer. His work has appeared on multiple digital outlets, including NBC Sports and Golf Channel. Follow him on Twitter @RyanBallengee.
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