Phil Mickelson has the distinction of having finished second in the U.S. Open a record six times. In five of those, Mickelson had at least a share of the lead in the final round. Here’s a recap of his near misses:
1999 at Pinehurst No. 2
There have been few U.S. Open Sundays as memorable as the first one involving Mickelson at Pinehurst.
On a gray, drizzly day, Mickelson started the final round one stroke behind Payne Stewart with Tiger Woods, David Duval, Vijay Singh and Steve Stricker among others close to the lead.
With a beeper in his golf bag to alert him if his pregnant wife, Amy, went into labor with the birth of their first child back home in Arizona, Mickelson and Stewart had an exceptional duel.
Mickelson led by one stroke with three holes to play, but Stewart would one-putt each of the last three greens to ultimately win by one. Stewart holed a 30-foot birdie putt at the par-4 16th to take the lead after Mickelson made bogey from the bunker.
When Mickelson couldn’t match Stewart’s birdie at No. 17, he trailed by one playing the final hole. That’s where Stewart holed his famous par-saving putt on the final hole to win by a stroke before putting hands on Mickelson’s face and telling him he would be a great father.
“It’s been a disappointing day for me,” Mickelson said afterward. “The fact that our first child is expected to come here in the next week or so is awfully exciting, and something that I’m looking forward to. It will be a bigger change of my life than had I won today.”
2002 at Bethpage Black
It was the first time the U.S. Open was played at Bethpage Black (N.Y.), one of five courses in Bethpage State Park, marking the first time the championship was played on a municipal course.
For the first two days, Mickelson was an afterthought. He trailed eventual winner Tiger Woods by eight strokes after shooting 70-73 in the first two rounds.
When Mickelson shot 67 on Saturday to surge into contention, the sometimes rowdy Long Island galleries adopted him while making life miserable for Sergio Garcia, another of the leaders.
Mickelson started Sunday’s final round – his 32nd birthday – five behind Woods, but he closed to within two strokes of the lead with a birdie at the 13th hole. That was as close as Mickelson would get, ultimately finishing three behind Woods.
“I don’t know if this is the proudest event that I’ve played, but I would say this was certainly not a disappointing day today,” Mickelson said. “It was one of the most exciting days that I’ve had in the game of golf. It was very electrifying.”
2004 at Shinnecock Hills
This U.S. Open was different for Mickelson because it was the first one he played as a major champion, having won the Masters two months earlier.
Playing the spectacular, wind-blown links on Long Island, Mickelson shared the 36-hole lead with Shigeki Maruyama after rounds of 68-66. Mickelson slipped back on Saturday, falling two behind leader Retief Goosen.
The final round was played in dry, breezy conditions, which made the greens extremely difficult to putt. Birdies at Nos. 15 and 16 gave Mickelson a one-stroke lead, but he double-bogeyed the par-3 17th hole, three-putting from 5 feet away. Goosen went on to win by two strokes, his second U.S. Open title.
“After I birdied 16, I had a one-shot lead, and I thought this was going to be the day,” Mickelson said. “To come very close, to play so hard for 72 holes and play better than anybody but one guy is disappointing, sure.”
2006 at Winged Foot
This is the U.S. Open that came to symbolize Mickelson’s frustrations in the national championship.
Playing a classic course with a brutally difficult set-up, Mickelson stayed close to the lead through the first two days then found himself tied for the lead with little-known Kenneth Ferrie entering the final round.
It’s a U.S. Open known perhaps more for who lost – and how they lost – than for Geoff Ogilvy’s victory. Colin Montgomerie, Jim Furyk and Mickelson each had opportunities on the 72nd hole and couldn’t convert.
Mickelson’s collapse, after a poor ball-striking day, was the most memorable. Leading by one, Mickelson hit a wayward drive off the 18th tee that hit a hospitality tent. His second shot hit a tree and his third buried in a green-side bunker. He ultimately made a double bogey to lose by one stroke. The image of Mickelson with his head in his hands on the 18th green captured his disappointment.
“I just can’t believe that I did that,” Mickelson said. “I am such an idiot.”
2009 at Bethpage Black
Ten years after playing a U.S. Open awaiting the birth of his first child, Mickelson played this one knowing his wife, Amy, would soon begin treatment for breast cancer.
Rain turned the course into a muddy mess and disrupted play from the start, destroying any sense of continuity to the event.
When the final round began, Mickelson trailed third-round leader Ricky Barnes by six strokes. Mickelson surged and when he eagled the 13th hole, he was tied for the lead with eventual champion Lucas Glover.
Mickelson’s putter let him down coming in, however. He three-putted No. 15 for a bogey and bogeyed the 17th to finish tied for second with Barnes and David Duval.
“I feel different this time,” Mickelson said. “I don’t know where to go with this, because I want to win this tournament badly. This is now my fifth second. And surprisingly – not surprisingly – I play well in this event and I enjoy this event.”
2013 at Merion
On his 43rd birthday, Mickelson flirted with the U.S. Open title again.
He’d raised eyebrows early in the week by flying home to see his daughter graduate middle school, then jetting back to Philadelphia overnight in time for his first-round tee time. It didn’t bother Mickleson, whose 67 led after the first round.
Mickelson shared the lead with Billy Horschel after 36 holes and took a one-stroke lead into the final round.
Two double bogeys in the first five holes put Mickelson behind on Sunday, but when he holed a 75-yard wedge shot on the par-4 10th hole, he had the lead again. It didn’t last. Two poor wedge shots led to a pair of back-nine bogeys and he finished tied for second with Jason Day, two behind Justin Rose.
“This one’s probably the toughest for me because, at 43 and coming so close five times it would have changed the way I look at this tournament all together and the way I would have looked at my record,” Mickelson said.
“Except I just keep feeling heartbreak.”