Ah, yes, nothing like another episode of Mickelsonian melodrama to spice up the U.S. Open at Merion over the weekend.
Phil again made fabulous theater, with the conspicuous parental attention to his daughter’s eighth-grade graduation the day before the start, the brilliant shots, an eagle from the rough in the final round, and the suddenly balky putter and tightening collar down the stretch.
All of it climaxed Sunday afternoon on his 43rd birthday. And once again, the painful Mickelson narrative was as obvious as Wile E. Coyote failing to notice his birthday candles are sticks of TNT.
The one-shot lead he forged with the eagle on No. 10 faded to a two-shot loss to Justin Rose, extending Mickelson’s record for U.S. Open runner-up finishes to six in 23 appearances.
Sympathy is due in measured amounts. Mickelson has four major titles and already is in the World Golf Hall of Fame. His $70 million career earnings are bolstered by an estimated $30 million in annual endorsement fees.
But he’s clearly grown weary of the U.S. Open “bridesmaid” headlines. What man wouldn’t?
That’s OK, Phil, here’s hoping you don’t let it get you down. Stay sharp, remain a contender, and maybe even challenge again next June at the Open at Pinehurst.
Because a year and 51 weeks from now, nothing would delight the folks at Chambers Bay more than to see you celebrate your 25th Open appearance by claiming that first silver trophy on our turf.
The ratings, the attention, the drama; just picture the tearful Mickelson kissing that trophy in front of a Puget Sound sunset.
Here’s a guess that Mickelson might be suited to the course, which will demand shot-making creativity. But so did Merion Golf Club, of course, because it was an equal part of the story last week.
The old, tight course had draconian rough and illegible greens. It had character and a gruff attitude, and in the end, no one even matched par.
I can speak for every iron-shankin’ chili-dipper in the viewing audience when I say how enjoyable it was to watch Sergio Garcia yank three tee balls out of bounds and ring up a 10 on one hole.
And Graeme McDowell, then-ranked No. 8 in the world, failed to make the cut because he had more double bogeys than birdies in his first two rounds.
One area at Merion that got a great deal of attention was the final few wicked holes in what they call the “quarry.”
You say you want quarry holes? Chambers Bay has 18 of them. The whole place is a converted sand and gravel quarry.
The terrain of the par-3 No. 9 would be a double black-diamond ski run. And the concrete quarry ruins give No. 18 the look of some post-industrial Stonehenge. Network camera crews are going to have a week-long party with the scenery.
I still suspect wagering might be available on how many spectators come tumbling off the dunes and onto the greens during play. So that will bear watching.
And the players?
Well, they’ll all be hoping for calm weather, because if the winds start blowing up the Narrows, it could turn into a horror show.
The story is that when Robert Trent Jones II was questioned about coming in and designing the course, he asked whether there would be enough wind to make it challenging like traditional links courses on the British Isles.
The Tacoma folks asked Jones if he ever saw the old footage of a certain local bridge flapping in the wind and collapsing. He said, yes, he had. OK, well, that’s where we live.
In sum, it creates a course unique in U.S. Open history.
It’s the first Open in the Northwest. The first Open on a true links-style course.
And if they’re lucky, it might be the dramatic and telegenic first Open win for Phil Mickelson.Dave Boling: 253-597-8440 firstname.lastname@example.org @DaveBoling