Merion Moment: Crowd rushes 18th to see Phil Mickelson take second at the U.S. Open (again)

Kevin Kaduk
Devil Ball Golf

ARDMORE, Pa. — One woman ducked under the rope and then she was followed by another.

They were halted by a Merion Golf Club official and told to go back to where they belonged.

The women agreed, but when they wheeled around, the looks on their faces said that, no, they probably didn't have to comply with the man's request. Their initial scamper had burst the dam on Sunday night and an entire wave of reinforcements were pushing them back onto the 18th fairway.

Who could blame them? If you pay the high ticket prices to get into the U.S. Open, you're not going to willingly miss the tournament's biggest moment. The eager golf fans rushed the ridge on the approach to the green, craning their to get a closer look at what might end up being one of the most famous shots in golf history.

Phil Mickelson, the perennial U.S. Open bridesmaid, was looking at a 30-yard wedge to sink a birdie and force a Monday playoff with Justin Rose.

It really was the proverbial scene as we all made our way forward. A woman yelled at her husband that he shouldn't dare push her into the sand trap. A few kids scampered through that trap and took positions near the top like they were playing in the dunes at the state park. More and people streamed in from the high grounds up the fairway. One of the most famous golf clubs in the country was being transformed into Bonnaroo.

There is strength in numbers, so people whipped out the camera phones they had been warned to keep in their cars or check with security all week. They jabbered at each other in the excited accents that usually call the concourses of Citizens Bank Park and The Linc home and then they shouted encouragement at Mickelson, who was up ahead on the green, looking at all the angles. Mickelson turned 43 on Sunday and the galleries around almost every hole had greeted him with a serenade of "Happy Birthday." But not this one. There was too much at stake here and it made you wonder about all the fans at those earlier holes.

Didn't they know all those concentration-breaking moments like the double-bogey third and fifth holes would turn out to be just as important?

Wouldn't a better birthday present have been to just shut the hell up and let the man work?

You know what happened next, of course: Mickelson attempted the shot and it did not become one of the most famous shots in golf history. The ball sped its way well wide of the hole and Mickelson stopped his run up to the green to jam his finger tips into his temple, the complete opposite reaction he and the crowd had been hoping for. The 282 shots before this one were about to be summed into another entry in the "Phil Mickelson's U.S. Open disappointments" file.

Somewhere in a room with a television, Justin Rose cheered.

Back in the mob that was standing on the ridge, it was hard not to view the rush of the fans as some big metaphor for Mickelson's history at the U.S. Open. A lot of movement, a lot of action, a lot of excitement for a nice runner-up check and another anti-climactic moment that probably makes him appreciate those three green jackets even more.

The fans didn't linger long, dispersing well before Mickelson hit his two putts for his fifth bogey or worse of the day. Some hightailed it to the parking lot shuttles. Others headed to see the Ben Hogan 1-iron plate that's embedded in the middle of the 18th fairway. A few walked over to see the view from the par-3 17th before descending the staircase into Merion's famous quarry.

Phil Mickelson had blown another chance at a U.S. Open and there were other things to see.

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