Happy birthday, Phil Mickelson! How your U.S. Open wish can still come true
Phil Mickelson turned 47 on Friday, but the large crowds at Erin Hills didn't get to serenade him with a hearty midwest rendition of "Happy Birthday." As golf fans are well aware, Mickelson isn't at the 2017 U.S. Open because he stayed home to see his daughter graduate from her Carlsbad, Calif., high school. The decision made Phil a front-runner for pro sports' Father of the Year, but it left Lefty with one less chance to win an elusive national championship and complete the career Grand Slam. When Phil Mickelson blows out the candles on his cake (What kind of birthday cake does Phil Mickelson go with, anyway? My money's on an ice cream cake.), we have a pretty good idea what the man with six U.S. Open runner-up finishes is wishing for.
At 47, Mickelson is already two years older than Hale Irwin became the oldest U.S. Open champ in 1990. But if he were to win next year when he turns 48, he still would be younger than the oldest major champ ever, Julius Boros, at the 1968 PGA Championship. Still, there's reason for Mickelson to remain optimistic. For one, he easily qualified for last year's Ryder Cup team and shows no signs of slowing down his schedule. And secondly, he's got some very familiar U.S. Open venues coming up. Here's a look at how his pursuit of history will play out over the next few years.
2018 -- Shinnecock Hills: The U.S. Open returns to the historic Long Island, N.Y., track for the first time since 2004. You may remember that tournament as the one where the greens -- particularly the seventh green -- got away from the USGA. It was also where Mickelson let one get away, grabbing the lead from Retief Goosen with two to play before three-putting from five feet for a double bogey on No. 17. We tend not to remember that close call because, well, Mickelson has so many of them in this event.
2019 -- Pebble Beach: Mickelson finished T-4 the last time the U.S. Open was at Pebble in 2010 and T-16 the previous time in 2000. More impressively, he's won the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am four times and has a runner-up and two thirds in the annual PGA Tour stop in his home state. Plus, if he has another family obligation that year, he'll have a much better chance of still making his first-round tee time.
2020 -- Winged Foot: The name conjures images of Mickelson's most heartbreaking loss. You know, like this one. . .
Still, Mickelson played great for 71 holes that week in 2006. And the New York fans will shower their beloved Phil with songs and chants as he hits the big five-oh.
2021 -- Torrey Pines: Another local stop for Mickelson, who by that time will be eligible for the senior tour. It's also another place where Phil has enjoyed plenty of success. Mickelson has won the Farmers Insurance Open three times, has two runner-ups and one third. He also finished T-18 at the 2008 U.S. Open.
Then it starts to get a little trickier. The 2022 U.S. Open is at The Country Club in Brookline. Mickelson was a member of the U.S. Ryder Cup in 1999, but the historic course hasn't hosted a U.S. Open since Mickelson was graduating from high school in 1988. The tournament goes to another unknown for Mickelson in 2023 at Los Angeles Country Club, but then it's back to Pinehurst, the site of Mickelson's first U.S. Open runner-up in 1999. Mickelson lost to a Payne Stewart birdie on the final hole, but won in a different way the following day when he and his wife Amy had their first child, Amanda -- the one who graduated high school this week. Circle of life!
Of course, by 2024 Mickelson will be turning 54(!). Winning a U.S. Open -- let alone any tournament not on the PGA Tour Champions -- at that point is a tall ask for anyone. Caddie Jim "Bones" Mackay, though, has already said he thinks his boss could be a playing captain at that year's Ryder Cup at Bethpage Black, so. . . But as much fun as that sounds, let's take this one step at a time. Enjoy your birthday, Phil. And we'll see you at Shinnecock next year.