More than one major championship ambition has caved in under the weight of great expectations and Phil Mickelson’s 30th U.S. Open appearance was spectacularly anticipated and, as it turns out, overly optimistic.
Mickelson’s lightning-in-a-bottle victory at the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island gave people—even him—the hope that the 51-year-old might make catch lightning twice by winning the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. Mickelson grew up and lives near Torrey, and he pledged to improve his attitude about the South Course—which had been renovated in 2001 in preparation for the 2008 U.S. Open—by putting in a couple of weeks of serious preparation prior to the Open to go along with his newfound ability to focus for an entire round of golf.
But he presciently said before the tournament commenced, “You still have to execute.” And that was Mickelson’s undoing. He didn’t drive it straight enough, hit his irons well enough or chip and putt well enough. In other words, he just played poorly. As a result, Mickelson finished at 11 over par and near the bottom of those players who made the cut.
A disappointing first-round 75 was followed by a hopeful 69 that put him at 2 over for 36 holes. It would take an outstanding round on Saturday to get him into the championship mix, but instead he posted a 5-over 76 and that ended his chances.
“(The) first 10 or 12 holes, I just kind of lost the swing, and I really struggled,” Mickelson said Saturday. “I fought, and then at the end, I had a rough go on the greens. I know I'm playing a little bit better, but I just kind of lost it on Thursday and (Saturday).”
Mickelson will play this week at the Travelers Championship in Connecticut and the following week at the Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit. But you can’t help but wonder after his disappointing weekend at the U.S. Open how much enthusiasm he’ll be able to generate for tournaments that can't fulfill him in nearly the same way.
More Final-Round Coverage From 2021 U.S. Open:
- Rahm wins U.S. Open for First Major Title, by Gary Van Sickle
- How Rahm Finally Learned to Keep His Cool, by Michael Rosenberg
- Daily Question: Which Contender Should Feel Worst About Missed Opportunity?
- How Much Did Luck Play a Role on Sunday? by Alex Miceli
- Phil Mickelson Slumps on Weekend, Now 0-for-30 at U.S. Open, by Mike Purkey
- Mackenzie Hughes Gets Bad Bounce, Worse Break, by Mike Purkey
- Sights and Scenes From Final Round
- Olympic Qualifying Complete, but Top Players Mixed on Participation