That coincides with his very public adoration of his blond wife and three blond children, one of whom he flew coast-to-coast red-eye to see graduate from junior high school, meaning he got little sleep before Round 1.
Phil is a prince, he really is.
But on Sunday, on a day when a 1-over-par 71 would have won this U.S. Open and a 72 would have put him in a playoff with England’s Justin Rose, Mickelson shot 74 and lost again.
In all, 28 players shot 72 or lower in the fourth round. Merion played hard, but not that hard. Phil couldn’t do it.
So, he lost. Or, rather, finished second for the sixth time in the Open, an unsurpassed silver accomplishment in a world that only has eyes for gold.
That is what I usually love about sports. They don’t pay off on cheesy greeting card emotions. At the highest levels of the most difficult games, the true hard-won thing itself is much more valuable than mere vindicated sentimentality. That’s why the non-fiction victories of real life are so much better than fantasy.
This superb but hard-hearted U.S. Open may be the exception, at least for me. If there was ever an event, a day, a protagonist, when I wanted bathos and soap opera to win, regardless of the actual score, this was it. Phil wears his heart on his sleeve. By now, his whole wardrobe is crimson.
Then Mickelson came in after his defeat, what he called the “worst” of all his U.S. Open “heartbreaks,” and with his gracious honesty, his matter-of-fact expert analysis of his own shortcomings, proved once again that, sometimes, the true champion is the man himself, not just his score.
If there is a Man In The Arena Award for those who risk themselves, who expose their failings for the sake of a chance to be truly special, who stick their hands in the fickle Pholdin’ Phil flame of snark culture, no matter how often they’ve been burned before, it should be The Mickelson Award.
“I should have made bogey on those two holes, the third and the fifth, and [instead] I let them both become double bogeys,” he said, correctly. On the fifth, he took four shots from 117 yards, including three putts.
“I hung tough. I got lucky with eagle at the 10th hole,” he said of his 76-yard shot that trickled into the hole. That put him back ahead, but only momentarily as Rose answered with two birdies.
“Thirteen and 15 were the two bad shots of the day that I’ll look back on — where I let it go,” Mickelson said. “Those two wedge shots, at the [121-yard] 13th I had too much club. At the 15th, I quit on it and left it short and left — dead. Those two wedge shots were the costly shots.”