Phil Mickelson double-bogeyed the long par-3 third hole on Sunday at Merion. (Hallowell/Getty Images)
By PGATOUR.COM staff
At the start of last week, the concern was that the 6.996-yard Merion Golf Club was too short to host a U.S. Open.
Interesting that in Sunday’s final round, the concern was that one of its holes was too long.
Phil Mickelson, the Open's 54-hole leader, was frustrated with the setup of the par-3 third hole, where he made double-bogey en route to his sixth runner-up finish at the U.S. Open. The hole was listed at 266 yards in the final round, and played into an unexpected breeze. It's all carry to the green, which is fronted by deep rough and a bunker that protects the front-right of the green,
“That's terrible. 274 (yards)? We can't even reach it," Mickelson said to USGA executive director Mike Davis as they walked off the fourth tee.
The hole was stretched almost to its maximum length, with tees being placed on the back teeing ground and the hole location two-thirds of the way on the back-right of the green. A slope left of the hole would funnel tee shots toward the hole, but players struggled to take advantage of that assistance. They struggled just to reach the green because of the breeze. Fairway woods were the common club selection for the hole, which played to a 3.32 stroke average on Sunday.
It played as the course's eighth-toughest hole Sunday, yielding only five birdies in the final round. In spite of the extreme length, the third hole played about as difficult as it had all week. It was the eighth-toughest hole of the week, playing to a 3.33 scoring average for the four rounds.
"We set the golf course up today for a south wind," Davis said Sunday night. "When we got to the third hole, we were really getting a westerly, even a northwest, wind, so it played long. It played longer than we would have -- but having said that, it was a back hole location that was the most receptive on the green. We felt that it could handle 3-wood shots, if need be. (Mickelson) mentioned that he thought it was too long. That's fine. We wouldn't have put the tee markers back where we did had we known we were going to get that wind."
Mickelson, who did not carry a driver at Merion, hit fairway wood from the tee. "The third hole was ... very tough, in fact, 274 into a 20-(mph) wind," Mickelson said after his round. "I didn't really have the shot to get back there. I needed a driver. And I could have gotten a 3-wood on the first half, the front left, which is where I went for it, and it ended up in a very awkward spot. But I should have been able to two-putt and make bogey."
ARDMORE, Pa. -- Maybe the golf gods are with Phil Mickelson after all.
The short game maestro just holed a wedge from 74 yards at the par-4 10th hole to get back into the lead at the U.S. Open. As the crowd roared, Mickelson celebrated by leaping into the air -- this time with more elevation than he did when he won the Masters.
Mickelson's eagle moved him to even par for the tournament and one stroke ahead of the pack. Minutes later, Justin Rose joined Mickelson in the lead when he birdied No. 12.
Phil Mickelson is hoping to finally win the U.S. Open on Sunday (Carr/Getty Images)
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
ARDMORE, Pa. -- The way Phil Mickelson figures it, if he produces a round under par Sunday at Merion, his chances of winning his first U.S. Open title will be significant.
"A low score, a good score," Mickelson said when asked what it will take to win. Mickelson enters with a one-stroke lead over Hunter Mahan, Charl Schwartzel and Steve Stricker.
"I don't know what number that is, but I do believe I've got an under par round in me tomorrow even with the difficult pins and the possibly firmer conditions."
To shoot under par, Mickelson will need a round in the 60s. That's not something he's managed to do very often in the final round of the U.S. Open.
In his 22 previous appearances at the U.S. Open, Mickelson has made the cut 20 times. Of his 20 final rounds, just one of those rounds has been in the 60s -- a 69 in 2009 at Hazeltine, when he finished tied for second.
That's the last of his five runner-up finishes at the U.S. Open.
Mickelson, who is celebrating his 43rd birthday Sunday, is paired with Mahan in the final group. They tee off at 3:20 p.m. ET.
MICKELSON'S FINAL ROUNDS AT U.S. OPEN
|Year||Rd. 4 score||Result||Year||Rd. 4 score||Result|
Phil Mickelson takes a one-stroke lead into the final round of the U.S. Open. (Kinniard/Getty Images)
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
ARDMORE, Pa. -- Standing on the tee at the 17th on Saturday evening, Phil Mickelson was just thinking about hitting the green on the monster of a 254-yard par 3, putting twice and moving on to his final hole of the long, draining day.
"But the 4-iron I hit -- I just stood there and admired it," Mickelson said. "It was one of the best shots I've ever hit."
The ball obediently hit the green and caught the slope, stopping about 15 feet below the hole. Mickelson smiled and tipped his cap to the crowd, took the putter from his caddy Bones MacKay and walked down the hill into the amphitheater.
Then Mickelson made the putt that would put him 2 under and give him sole possession of the lead after his playing partner, Luke Donald, made bogey. Mickelson pumped his fist into the air as the ball tracked toward the hole and the crowd roared.
"It just was right down the center of the green and I was hoping it would kind of get the right bounces and so forth and it did," Mickelson said. "It left me a beautiful uphill putt that I could be aggressive with and I made it.
"And it was fun to do that because that's just not a hole you expect to get one back."
Granted, Mickelson bogeyed the 18th but he is still the only player in red numbers through 54 holes. He'll enter the final round with a one-stroke lead over Charl Schwartzel, Steve Stricker and Hunter Mahan, who will join him in Sunday's final pairing.
Mickelson, who has finished second a record five times at the U.S. Open, has won three of the four majors where he has taken the lead into the final round. The one he didn't? You guessed it -- was a U.S. Open where Retief Goosen overtook him in 2004 at Shinnecock Hills.
"I love being in the thick of it," the four-time major champ said. "I've had opportunities in years past, and it has been so fun, even though it's been heart-breaking to come so close a number of times and let it slide. But I feel better equipped than I have ever felt heading into the final round of a U.S. Open.
"My ball striking is better than it's ever been. My putting is better than it has been in years, and I feel very comfortable on this golf course. I love it."
And why does Mickelson feel so comfortable at Merion? He likes the variety the course presents.
While U.S. Opens always place a premium on par, Mickelson knows there are some birdie holes to tackle along with what he calls "some of the hardest par holes that we have ever played," and that has gotten his juices going.
"I think it's helped me this week, one, how much I've loved the golf course and the setup," Mickelson said.
The big lefthander vows he won't fell any more pressure on Sunday than anyone else. The man who spent Wednesday in California attending his oldest daughter's eight-grade graduation is going for quite a trifecta -- it's Father's Day, his 43rd birthday and another chance to win the U.S. Open.
"It's got the makings to be something special, but I still have to go out and perform and play some of my best golf," Mickelson said.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
ARDMORE, Pa. -- Phil Mickelson owns a share of the second-round lead at the U.S. Open for the third time in his career.
He's finished second the last two times -- first, to the late Payne Stewart in 1999 at Pinehurst and later to Retief Goosen in 2004 at Shinnecock Hills. Mickelson actually has been the runner-up at the U.S. Open five times, which is a record, but he's still searching for his first victory.
Mickelson's third-round scoring average at the U.S. Open is 72.60 and he's broken par seven times in 22 appearances. He is 1 under through 36 holes at Merion and tied for the lead with Billy Horschel, who is playing in his first U.S. Open as a pro.
In all, Mickelson has held the lead at the midway point of four majors and converted one into victory at the 2005 PGA Championship.
This marks the 31st time Mickelson has held or shared the 36-hole lead on TOUR. He converted 17 or those into victory, including earlier this year when he won the Waste Management Phoenix Open for the 41st victory of his World Golf Hall of Fame career.
The last 36-hole lead Mickelson had that didn’t result in a win was also his most recent as he finished one stroke out of a Derek Ernst-David Lynn playoff at the Wells Fargo Championship last month.
Mickelson shares the lead at 1 under after two rounds of the U.S. Open. (Kinnaird/Getty Images)
By Brian Wacker, PGAOTUR.COM
ARDMORE, Pa. -- Better late than never.
Phil Mickelson was going nowhere -- except backwards -- with three bogeys and no birdies over his first 17 holes of the second round on Friday.
With his ball 20 feet from the hole on the 18th green, the horn sounded signaling the suspension of play due to darkness. Mickelson had the option to finish the hole if he wanted.
He did, making birdie to send the surrounding fans into an uproar. More importantly, it gave him a share of the lead with Billy Horschel at 1 under through the first two rounds of the U.S. Open.
"It felt great," Mickelson said of the putt. "I wasn't expecting birdie there. It's a very difficult hole."
For much of the day, Mickelson made things difficult on himself. So did Merion.
Mickelson and Horschel are the only players currently under par through the first 36 holes, and there were a dozen rounds in the 80s compared to just three in the 60s.
Those who didn't finish their round will resume play at 7:15 a.m. ET on Saturday.
Among them are Ian Poulter and amateur Cheng-Tsung Pan. They are two of five players just a stroke off the lead. Luke Donald, Steve Stricker and Justin Rose are the others.
Mickelson, meanwhile, struggled to gain any momentum most of the day.
He three-putted the first hole before stringing together nine straight pars. The streak ended, though, with back-to-back bogeys on Nos. 12 and 13.
"Even though I shot 2 over, it was the birdie opportunities that I didn't capitalize on," Mickelson said. "Had I made one on 2 or that birdie on 8 or 9 or 11, I would have changed kind of the momentum of the round.
"I played well today even though I didn't feel the score was what I thought it should be."
He did, however, play well enough to make another run at a U.S. Open title -- five times he has finished second.
"It feels good being in contention heading into the weekend," Mickelson said. "If you play good golf there's a lot of birdie holes where you can make birdies and shoot a 60s round."
And if he can do that, he'll give himself a nice present. Mickelson turns 43 on Sunday, which also happens to be Father's Day.
Phil Mickelson missed only three fairways during the first round. (Halleran/Getty Images)
ARDMORE, Pa. -- Phil Mickelson, a five-time runner-up at the U.S. Open, finished his first round in the 113th renewal of the national championship with 67 that gave him sole possession of the lead.
Mickelson made four birdies and a lone bogey on a marathon day that began with his private plane landing in Philadelphia shortly after 4 a.m. The big left-hander was a late arrival because he attended his daughter Amanda's eighth-grade graduation on Wednesday back home in San Diego.
"It might be abnormal, but it actually worked out really well," Mickelson said of the long-distance commute. "I got all my work done on Merion when I was here a week and a half ago. I knew exactly how I wanted to play the golf course, given the conditions, given different wind conditions, clubs I was going to be hitting, where I was going to be and the shots that I was going to have.
"So I didn't feel I needed more time at Merion, what I needed was to get my game sharp, to get my touch sharp. And having a nice practice facility and nice weather for the last couple of days allowed me to do that. So it worked out great on both ends."
Making the day even longer was a weather delay of 3 hours, 32 minutes that began at 8:36 a.m. after Mickelson had finished four holes. As a result of the delay, the first group in the afternoon wave didn't tee off until 4 p.m., which was about 10 minutes after Mickelson finished his round.
Jerry Kelly, who has two holes remaining, trails Mickelson by one stroke. Mickelson's 67 was his lowest opening round at the U.S. Open since 1999 and just his third first round in the 60s in his last 25 major championships dating to the 2007 Masters.
Five players, including a pair of amateurs in Kevin Phelan and Chen-Tsung Pan, are tied at 1 under. Also at that number are big-hitting Niclas Colsaerts, South Africa's George Coetzee and the resurgent Mike Weir.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
ARDMORE, Pa. -- Phil Mickelson had planned to practice at Merion Golf Club on Monday and Tuesday. But you know what they say about the best-laid-plans.
When he saw the forecast that called for an 80-percent chance of rain on Monday, Mickelson opted to head back home to San Diego where the sun was shining and temperatures were in the upper 60s. After all, he had played two practice rounds at the iconic course early last week.
And Mickelson had planned on being home on Wednesday to attend his daughter Amanda's eighth-grade graduation ceremony. Amanda, you'll remember, was born the day after Mickelson finished second to Payne Stewart at the 1999 U.S. Open at Pinehurst.
"My daughter Amanda is speaking at her eighth grade graduation ceremony on Wednesday and I always planned on being there for that," Mickelson said in a statement from his management company. "But since it was raining so much Monday and we didn't know if we'd even be able to play a sloppy course, I came home last night to practice in great weather on my range and greens.
"I'll be ready to go Thursday."
Mickelson tees off at 7:11 a.m. ET in the first round. He will play with Steve Stricker and Keegan Bradley.
Mickelson, who has five runner-up finishes at the U.S. Open, tied for second Sunday at the FedEx St. Jude Classic.
WATCH: Phil Mickelson nearly holes his approach on the 72nd hole at the FedEx St. Jude Classic.
By Don Wade, Special to PGATOUR.COM
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Down by two strokes and hitting an approach shot on No. 18, Phil Mickelson knew he had to go for it. He did and when his ball landed near the hole on the green and a roar went up from the crowd, Mickelson’s hands went to his head. With his view partially obstructed, he thought maybe, just maybe, it went in.
“I knew it was right at the stick,” he said.
Mickelson settled for a birdie, a 3-under 67 for the day and a 10-under tie for second place with Scott Stallings, two strokes behind Harris English, who won the FedEx St. Jude Classic Sunday at TPC Southwind.
For Mickelson, though, there was much good in the day and week as he heads toward the U.S. Open at Merion.
“It was an encouraging week,” said Mickelson, who has 41 career victories. “I got better each day. It was fun to get into contention and feel the nerves a little bit.”
After shooting a 71 in the first round, Mickelson shot 67 in Round 2 and 65 in the third round.
“My iron play was very good this week,” he said. “I’ve got to get the 3-wood in play a little more. My short game was pretty good after the first day.”