A Look Back: Phil Mickelson’s Six U.S. Open Runner-Up Finishes

The tournament Lefty most wants to win; his first chance at the career grand slam. The player that America’s championship has most often left heartbroken; the course at which the first punch to his gut took place.

And so Phil Mickelson and the U.S. Open meet again.

After swallowing his sixth second-place finish at the U.S. Open (a record) last year, few thought he’d have much of a chance at the Open Championship the very next month. But there was Mickelson at Muirfield hoisting the claret jug, very quickly realizing that all of a sudden he was just one major short of a career grand slam. His focus shifted immediately to that damned U.S. Open, set to take place at Pinehurst Resort, the site of his first major miss.

Related Link: 9 Players Who Just Missed Career Grand Slam

And finally, 2014 U.S. Open week is here. As much as Mickelson would rather talk about how he’s missed the top 10 in every single PGA Tour event he’s played this year, everyone else would rather talk about all the times he’s lost the U.S. Open.

Here’s a look back at those six sad occasions:

1999 – A spry 29-year-old, Mickelson moved his way into contention on Sunday as his wife, Amy, was back home and due any minute with their first child. He carried a pager with him and vowed to walk off the course should that beeper tell him Amy was going into labor. But it never sounded, and he made it to 18 with a chance to win his first major. Mickelson’s 25-foot birdie putt, however, came up inches short, and Payne Stewart’s subsequent par putt from 15 feet fell in. That was the longest winning putt in U.S. Open history. Stewart cupped Mickelson’s head afterward and told him, “You’re going to be a father!”

Payne Stewart Phil Mickelson 600

2002 – Mickelson shot a 67 on Saturday to move into third place, but he still trailed the leader, Tiger Woods, by five strokes heading into the final round. Mickelson carded a 70, taking second place all to himself, but Woods still won by three shots. The idea of Mickelson being the “best player yet to win a major” began to grow.

Phil Mickelson 2002 600

2004 – Mickelson tossed the no-majors monkey off his back by collecting the Masters title in 2004, and he entered the U.S. Open weekend with a share of the lead. A third-round 73 didn’t help matters, but he was just two shots back going into Sunday. Mickelson surged into the front at one point, but that was all for naught when he three-putted from five feet on 17 and took a double-bogey. Retief Goosen secured the title by two strokes.

Phil Mickelson 2004 600

2006 – A win at the U.S. Open would have made it three straight majors for Mickelson (after he took the 2005 PGA Championship and 2006 Masters). He shared the lead Sunday morning, but an up-and-down final round unraveled on the par-4 18th, where he needed only a par to win. Mickelson’s tee shot sliced so wide left that it nailed a hospitality tent. His second shot hit a tree. His third shot dove into a bunker. His fourth shot landed on the green but rolled off. His fifth shot – which still could have forced a playoff – was never close. Geoff Ogilvy took the trophy. “I still am in shock that I did that,” Mickelson said afterward. “I just can’t believe that I did that. I am such an idiot. I can’t believe I couldn’t par the last hole. It really stings.”

2009 – Mickelson surprised some by opting to play in 2009 as his wife, Amy, was battling breast cancer. But she encouraged him to go for it, and he took a share of the lead on Sunday. Yet his back nine became all too familiar. He missed a birdie putt at No. 14, three-putted for bogey on 15, and took another bogey at 17. Lucas Glover collected a two-shot victory over Mickelson and two others, giving Lefty his fifth runner-up finish at the national championship.

Phil Mickelson 2009 600

2013 – As per usual, you can’t say Mickelson didn’t have his chances. Unlucky or bad reads – whatever you want to call them – he had birdie putts lip out at Nos. 1, 2 and 9. The tide seemed to turn when he sent his second shot on No. 10, which sat in the rough 76 yards away, straight into the cup for an eagle. That turned the lead back over to Mickelson. But he dropped three more shots over the rest of the back nine, including one on No. 18, when fans began chanting “Let’s go Phil!” He was preparing to chip from the fairway, a shot that needed to go in to force a playoff. It didn’t come close, and he two-putted from there to finish two strokes behind Justin Rose. “Heartbreak,” Mickelson told NBC after the round, adding, “This was my best chance of all them.”

Related Link: 9 Players Who Just Missed Career Grand Slam

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