Tough going
Not a good week for Mickelson

The last time Phil Mickelson came to Congressional to play in a major, his promising career had him on a trajectory perhaps to win multiple U.S. Open titles.

Fourteen years later, Mickelson’s narrative at this event has included virtually everything but triumph. Most agonizing are his five second-place finishes, and now, with the next wave of young players trying to elbow their way into the mix, his opportunities are dwindling that much more.

Those disappointments made the 41-year-old, three-time Masters champion a sentimental favorite coming into this week, but after a second-round 69, Mickelson became all but irrelevant with a 6-over-par 77 on Saturday. His undoing was a 42 on the back nine, where he made double bogey on Nos. 16 and 17.

“Yeah, it was a rough back nine,” said Mickelson, who for a second consecutive day declined to speak with members of the media in the interview area but did answer questions from the U.S. Golf Association. “Some things kind of fell apart there in the end.”

Mickelson is on pace for his worst U.S. Open showing since firing 6 over at Torrey Pines in 2008.

Gene Wang

fighting inconsistency
Donald deals with frustration

Number 18 at Congressional has been Luke Donald’s undoing this week. The No. 1 player in the world has played the finishing hole at 5 over par through three rounds. On Saturday, after making par on his first 13 holes, Donald went bogey, par, birdie, bogey and double bogey to close out his round with a 3-over 74. He is tied for 57th place with a 7-over 220.

“I actually played all right today,” he said. “I didn’t get a lot out of it.”

For Donald, who hasn’t finished lower than 10th this year on the PGA Tour, it has been a frustrating week.

“I just haven’t played consistently enough,” he said. “Just not quite sharp enough, and you pay the price for it at the U.S. Open.”

The U.S. Open has come near the end of a very busy period for Donald. He played four tournaments in a row, winning the European PGA Championship three weeks ago, before taking last week off.

“I was under the weather, and I was obviously struggling with a bit of fatigue,” he said. “I probably peaked too early.”

Kathy Orton

low Amateur
Cantlay finds his comfort zone

You wouldn’t know it by watching him, but Patrick Cantlay is having fun at Congressional this week. The 19-year-old amateur, who is as expressionless as a Secret Service officer, has more than proved he belongs among the best golfers in the world.

Cantlay shot a 1-under 70 on Saturday to follow up Thursday’s 75 and Friday’s 67 to move into a tie for 15th place heading into the final round. He is the low amateur, one shot in front of Russell Henley, the University of Georgia senior.

“I feel really comfortable out there the last two days and I’m having a great time,” Cantlay said. “It’s been great to be in front of the fans and just be in the atmosphere out there.”

Cantlay, who just finished his freshman year at UCLA, took second place at the NCAA championships recently. He also collected a variety of awards, including the Jack Nicklaus award (the nation’s most outstanding golfer) and the Phil Mickelson award (the nation’s top freshman). He said his strong performance at the U.S. Open in no way will influence him to leave college early and turn professional.

“My timeline is after I graduate from UCLA,” he said.

Kathy Orton

Heading home
Barbosa finishes what he started

Michael Barbosa awoke Saturday morning already 22 over in his first U.S. Open. Yet he still had one hole to play — to officially miss the cut.

“I’m not a [PGA] Tour guy who’s got next week and then two in a row after that,” Barbosa said. “For me, this is just a great opportunity to take everything in.”

The taking in included a double bogey at the last Saturday morning, a score of 24-over 166, and a last-place finish among those who didn’t make the cut. His take-away: A great experience.

“You’re here with the top players in the world,” said Barbosa, who played at Georgia Tech and is a bond trader in St. Petersburg, Fla. “I was definitely awestruck a little bit, which I think if I’m ever able to get back to this stage again, this experience will serve me well.”

Not everyone who didn’t finish play Friday night — when play was suspended because of weather, then darkness — decided to come back. Tim Petrovic, a struggling veteran on the PGA Tour, played 17 holes Friday and was 11 over for the tournament before play was called. He didn’t return and officially is listed as having withdrawn from the event.

Barry Svrluga

Bad timing
Garcia can’t break through

There was a time when Sergio Garcia was among those mentioned as a potential challenger to Tiger Woods for golf supremacy. The Spaniard, though, never managed to reach anything near that level, and even now, with Woods not playing in the U.S. Open because of injury, Garcia can’t catch a break despite a three-round total of 4 under that normally would have him in the thick of the winner’s chase.

Garcia instead is all but certainly relegated to a tussle for second place after Rory McIlroy extended his lead to eight shots heading into Sunday’s final round. Garcia trails Y.E. Yang by two shots for second.

“I’m not going to go out there and say I’m going to try to shoot 62” on Sunday, Garcia said. “I’m trying to shoot the lowest I can. If the lowest I can is 70, great. If it’s 65, great. If it’s 73, great. That’s all I can do.”

Gene Wang

Interesting path to a bogey

Ryo Ishikawa’s second shot on No. 9 ended up on the bridge that spans the valley between the tee box and the green. Because the bridge is through the green rather than over a water hazard, Ishikawa was granted relief. It was determined that his nearest point of relief was on the ground below the bridge, approximately a 70-foot drop from where the ball landed. From there, he dropped one club length and landed his ball on the green. He made bogey on the hole en route to a 3-over 74 for the round.

Kathy Orton