PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — It’s not happening this year, either.
For the 29th time, Phil Mickelson teed it up in the U.S. Open, and for the 29th time, he’ll go away without a trophy, finishing Sunday at Pebble Beach at +1 on the day, +4 for the tournament.
That doesn’t come as a shock, really; Phil’s best days are long behind him. Aside from the odd win — and we do mean odd, like the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am victory earlier this year that came out of nowhere — Mickelson’s more fan favorite than actual threat.
Sunday was Mickelson’s 49th birthday, and he got serenaded around the entire course — three times on the 18th hole alone. Mickelson then went to sign autographs behind the 18th-hole grandstands, and the singing started up again.
“He’s gonna be hearing that [censored] song in his sleep,” one player standing outside the scorer’s building said with a laugh.
“A decent amount,” Mickelson responded when asked how many times he’d heard the birthday song. “It's pretty cool. The people here have been so nice to me and I'm very thankful.”
— U.S. Open (USGA) (@usopengolf) June 16, 2019
Love him or hate him — and it’s one or the other, there are no mild emotions regarding Phil — you can’t deny that Mickelson’s the People’s Champ at every tournament. It’s a familiar refrain — Phil’s got a dad-shaped bod; Phil plays the kind of what-the-hell, hit-it-and-see-what-happens kind of golf most amateurs love; Phil might be wrong but he’s never uncertain. He’s attempted to win the U.S. Open for three decades, and since winning the 2013 British he’s tried to close out the career Grand Slam five times. There’s something to be said for that kind of slam-your-head-against-the-wall determination.
What’s tough about this week for Phil is that it represented his best realistic remaining chance to bring home that trophy. The next courses on the U.S. Open rotation include beasts like Winged Foot, Torrey Pines, Brookline and Pinehurst — all of which will play longer and tougher than Pebble Beach did this week.
Mickelson caught a monstrous break this week when the combination of a conservative USGA and a gentle marine layer rendered Pebble as easy as it’ll ever play at a U.S. Open. But he couldn’t take advantage. That window won’t open this wide again.
Mickelson has acknowledged that he’s running out of chances to win. But what’s the alternative? Give up?
“It's not like I'm going to stop trying,” he said. “I enjoy the challenge. But I thought this was a really good chance for me. I just didn't … I didn't putt my best, I didn't chip my best.”
Phil won’t get another birthday in a U.S. Open round until 2022 at Brookline, and won’t get a birthday on a U.S. Open Sunday until 2024 at Pinehurst. But if he’s there, the fans will be singing, no matter how he finishes.
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