The coveted United States Open Golf Championship was his to lose, which he inexplicably did.
Lefty battled a wayward driver the entire final round, hitting just 2 fairways, yet still was a stroke in front of the field standing on the 72nd tee box. A par would win the Open, a bogey would tie Geoff Ogilvy in the clubhouse.
Clearly Mickelson, who recently won the Masters and is arguably the second best golfer in the world, knew what he had to do. Several months ago 16-year-old Michelle Wie pulled a bonehead shot when she attempted a tricky downhill chip on the 72nd hole at the Kraft Nabisco Championship on the LPGA Tour when a careful two-putt would have ensured a spot in the playoff. Wie chipped well past the hole, missed her put, and settled for a big check rather than possible victory.
At the time Wie was raked over the coals for her poor choice of club selection. Still all remembered Wie was a mere teenager playing with women.
Mickelson would never make such a club selection mistake.
Yet he did, and it cost him dearly. Standing on that 72nd hole, he pulled out driver and blocked his shot into the rough. Hey, mistakes happen, especially under the intense pressure of the U.S. Open. One could argue his club selection, but it was what it was. A mere wayward shot. All was not lost.
Then Mickelson did the unbelievable. He attempted a difficult shot from a tough lie, a shot which required him to evade a grove of trees, bunkers, fans, trash cans (hey, he had hit into a trash can on the 17th hole) and the like. It was a shot most pros would only successfully accomplish 25 percent of the time.
But this was the Open, and Mickelson went for it.
The obvious problem was that a miscue from this distance would bring a big number into play. A big number that would cost him the Open. At this point, the prudent player would have gotten himself back to the fairway, hit his third shot onto the green, and then made a good putt for par and the championship. Miss that putt and he’s in the playoff.
A man with the iron game of Mickelson simply had to put the ball into play and move on. A man with his experience would assess the situation, the entire situation, and make the proper play. With all on the line he placed his entire bankroll on green when red or black would have been a much better selection.
But by attempting a miracle shot Mickelson brought failure into play. Miss the shot and chances of winning the Open went out the window. The record shows that Mickelson’s shot hit the tree and gave him a harder shot to the green, which he missed with shot three.
Disaster had struck one of the game’s finest players as golf fans throughout the world yelled at their television screens in dismay.
Afterward, a shell-shocked Lefty held up well for the herd of inquisitors.
He answered question after question. After a bit he stopped, looked at the throng and made a statement that summed up his 18th hole decisions.
“I am such an idiot.”