Mickelson wasn’t the only one to make a mess of Winged Foot’s 18th
A first-hand account from the other players who contributed to one of the craziest finishes in U.S. Open history
September 13, 2020
By Sean Martin, PGATOUR.COM
Colin Montgomerie reflects on 2006 U.S. Open
The U.S. Open’s return to Winged Foot means revisiting one of the wildest finishes in the tournament’s history.
Phil Mickelson’s failure on the final hole receives most of the attention, and for good reason. The U.S. Open is the only event that stands between him and the career Grand Slam. His six runners-up in this event also are a record; no one else has more than four. Winning at Winged Foot would have given Mickelson three consecutive major victories, as well.
Winged Foot may have been his best chance to win his national championship. Playing in the final group, he arrived at 18 needing a par to win. Instead, his drive sailed off a hospitality tent and his recovery shot ricocheted off a tree and nearly bounced back to his feet. He made double-bogey instead.
“I am such an idiot,” Mickelson famously said afterward. “This one hurts more than any tournament because I had it won.”
His 6 at the last hole dropped him to 6 over par for the tournament, one shot behind winner Geoff Ogilvy.
He wasn’t the only one who lost the 2006 U.S. Open with bogey, or worse, on 18. PGATOUR.COM recently spoke to the others to illuminate all of the craziness that occurred on Winged Foot’s closing hole:
Finish: T2, 286 (+6)
Shots behind Ogilvy: 1
Score on 18: Double bogey
What happened on 18: Flared his approach from the 18th fairway short and right of the green.
Quotable: “I am convinced to this day that if I was able to hit that second shot in real time -- I walk up to it and hit it the way that I do -- I would have won.”
Mickelson wasn’t the first player to lose the 2006 U.S. Open with a double-bogey on the final hole. Montgomerie did it first, and from the middle of the fairway.
At least one fellow contender said it was Montgomerie’s double, not Mickelson’s, that was the most shocking because of where it came from. We’re all accustomed to Mickelson scrambling from the trees. Mickelon’s popularity – and his enduring quest for his first U.S. Open – has caused his mistake at Winged Foot to overshadow Montgomerie’s.
“That’s the one that will forever haunt (Mickelson), but he’s spent his life going for those shots. It’s not like it was out of character,” Padraig Harrington, who finished fifth at Winged Foot, told PGATOUR.COM. “What was out of character was Monty. Monty spent his life hitting the green with a 7-iron.
“I was gob-smacked. Not so much with Phil. Phil is like that. I was gob-smacked with Monty.”
Montgomerie wrote in his autobiography that Winged Foot was “the major near-miss which can still wake me up in the middle of the night.” Montgomerie, a World Golf Hall of Famer, had five runners-up in majors but never won one.
What happened on the final hole was especially jarring after the good fortune he experienced one hole earlier. He made a 40-footer for birdie on that hole, a stroke of fortune that made him wonder if fate was finally shining upon him.
“It went in and you think, ‘OK, is this it? Is this suddenly my time?’” Montgomerie recently told PGATOUR.COM.
Johnny Miller could see Montgomerie’s emotions from the broadcast booth.
“I think he is thinking about crying right now,” NBC’s Johnny Miller said on the telecast. “I’m serious.”
Gary Koch concurred with Miller’s observation, saying, “He looks very emotional, Johnny.”
Montgomerie walked to the 18th tee tied for the lead with Mickelson. Montgomerie split the fairway with his trademark high fade. He later called it his best drive in a pressure situation.
He was left with just 172 yards to the hole. The pin was on the right-hand side of the green, a perfect spot for his left-to-right ball flight. Montgomerie had to wait several minutes to hit the shot, however, after Vijay Singh drove into the same hospitality area that Mickelson later bounced his tee shot off of. While Singh received his drop, Montgomerie estimated he had to wait 15 minutes before hitting his shot.
“He’s been waiting down there, Johnny, but he’s been waiting nearly two decades for a major championship, so what’s another minute or two,” Dan Hicks said on the broadcast. It was the wait that Montgomerie felt hurt him.
“The time, that was the problem with it,” he told PGATOUR.COM. “It was the time I had to think. That’s why I’m a quick player normally, because I’m convinced that the longer you have over a shot, the more doubt and the more negative thoughts spring up. And that’s what happened and unfortunately I mishit it.”
Montgomerie changed from a 6-iron to a 7-iron right before hitting, a decision that Miller immediately questioned. “I’m surprised he just switched clubs, when you’ve had 10 minutes to figure it out,” Miller said.
Montgomerie thought adrenaline would give him added distance with the shorter club, but he caught it fat. “What kind of shot is that?” he said almost immediately after impact.
The ball fell short and right of the green. He was below the green, chipping up to a putting surface that sloped away from him. His flop shot sailed well past the pin and he ran his par putt approximately 10 feet past the hole. He missed the comebacker, which would have gotten him into a playoff.
“Colin Montgomerie will wonder if there will ever be another chance,” Hicks said.
There wasn’t. Montgomerie, who was less than a week shy of his 43rd birthday, never finished better than T42 in another major.
“I had a very bad flight home that night,” Montgomerie wrote in his autobiography. “I remember sitting there in a daze, not knowing what to say or do. I wasn’t crying. I had gone beyond that. I was incapable of any analysis. The same three words, ‘What just happened?’, kept going through my head.”
Finish: T2, 286 (+6)
Shots behind Ogilvy: 1
Score on 18: Bogey
What happened on 18: Hit approach into bunker and missed 5-foot par putt.
Quotable: “It still pisses me off.”
Furyk doesn’t remember seeing Mickelson’s debacle on the 72nd hole. He was on his way out of town when it happened. The U.S. Open runners-up are included in the trophy ceremony but Furyk never thought he’d need to stick around for that after his bogey on the final hole.
“I missed (the trophy ceremony) because I left,” he said recently. “I didn’t think I was going to be second. It never even dawned on me. I was in my car on the way out by the time that all shook out.”
Furyk, who’d won the U.S. Open three years earlier, three-putted the 15th from 30 feet for his first bogey of the back nine. He thought he needed a birdie at 18 to win the tournament for a second time.
“I was always disappointed I bogeyed that last hole," Furyk said. "I was pedal down, trying to make birdie as hard as I could.”
Furyk’s tee shot landed in the fairway but bounced left into the second cut. He tugged his second shot into a bunker left of the green but blasted out to 5 feet. Furyk and his longtime caddie, Mike “Fluff” Cowan, studied the putt intensely. Furyk backed off multiple times.
“I backed off of it because I wasn’t comfortable,” Furyk told PGATOUR.COM. “I remember hitting a decent putt. I looked up and it burned the edge.”
The left-to-right putt lost steam and missed on the low side.
“That was not that hard of a putt, except for the situation,” Miller said on the telecast.
“If they end up at plus 5, Furyk will think about that one for a while,” Hicks added.
Furyk still does.Jim Furyk and his caddie "Fluff" read a putt at Winged Foot in 2006. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Finish: 5th, 287 (+7)
Shots behind Ogilvy: 2
Score on 18: Bogey
What happened on 18: Three-putted from long distance for his third straight bogey.
Quotable: “That could have defined my career as a massive choke. But thankfully others made worse and they got the blame.”
It’s easy to forget the mess that Harrington made of the 18th hole. The final round overshadows all that precedes it, after all.
Harrington finished his third round with a triple-bogey on 18 after topping a 5-wood out of the rough. The ball rolled just 20 yards. He pulled his next shot into a bunker, then three-putted.
He started the final round four back of the leaders, Mickelson and little-known Kenneth Ferrie. Harrington played with Furyk in the fifth-to-last group.
Harrington was bogey-free for his first 15 holes Sunday. He started the day with 11 straight pars before birdies at 12 and 14 got him into the mix. Playing so far ahead of the leaders, it was difficult to tell what he needed to post to have a chance.
It turns out three pars would have done the trick. He closed with three straight bogeys instead.
He missed the green at both 16 and 17, missing a 3-footer for par on the second-to-last hole. He hit his approach on 18 to the back-left corner of the green. Thinking he needed to make his birdie putt from across the green, he raced it past the hole and missed the comebacker.
“I had three pars to win the U.S. Open. It’s as simple as that,” he said. “When I bogeyed 16, I thought I needed to make a birdie. As it turned out, I only needed to make two pars.”
He paused as he relived the crazy finish.
“Wow. Crazy game,” he added as he shook his head.
Harrington’s sports psychologist, Bob Rotella, approached his client after the round to check on his well-being. Harrington was upbeat despite the tough finish.
“I was quite happy, to be honest, because it was the first time I knew I could win a major,” he told PGATOUR.COM recently. “I know I messed up but I just didn’t read the situation right. I didn’t choke in the sense that I hit bad shots. I choked in the sense that I went for the wrong shot at the wrong time, which was situational awareness, which you only get from experience.”
Harrington won the following year’s Open Championship, then won both The Open and PGA Championship in 2008.