LA JOLLA, Calif. -- A quadruple-bogey 9 on the 13th hole meant Phil Mickelson's unrequited love affair with the U.S. Open is destined to continue for another year, made all the worse this time because it came at the hands of his high school sweetheart, Torrey Pines, the course where the boy became a man.
Early in the week, Mickelson, who will be 38 on Monday, talked about his love for the Open and his four runner-up finishes in it. "It just hasn't loved me back," he said. The par-5 13th certainly didn't give him any on Saturday. From a good lie in the first cut of kikuyu rough, Mickelson tried to stick his L-wedge close to the pin, make a birdie and get back to even par for the day. Instead, the ball spun back down the hill, and it took him three more tries with a 64-degree wedge to reach the back of the green. He three-putted from above the hole for the quad and finished the day nine over par for the tournament, 12 behind leader Tiger Woods and too far back to be a
factor on Sunday.
"It's a great pin that will entice guys to get a little close," Mickelson said afterward. "Certainly that's what I did on my first shot. The other two were just poor." Asked if he ever made a 9 on that hole before, he deadpanned, "Oh, no, I've had a 9 on 13. I mean, I was 8 years old."
Mickelson played the third round with his driver back in the bag after relying solely on his 3-wood as his longest club the first two days. "The 3-wood carries 275. It's running about 300 here. It's just easier to hit fairways at 300 than it is at 320. It just felt more comfortable. I didn't hit it well, and it cost me because I couldn't get it in the fairway," Mickelson said. "I've lost Opens, like at Winged Foot, where I didn't hit it in the fairway and I was hitting drivers, and I thought I'd hit another club, and it just didn't work out. I still missed them." The irony is, Mickelson's near miss at Winged Foot came, at least in part, because he didn't have a 3-wood in the bag on Sunday, hitting driver off the 18th--which bounced off an exhibition tent--because his 4-wood wasn't enough club to reach the dogleg.
Despite the obvious frustration of coming up short in his hometown, Mickelson was already thinking about next year. "This is something I wanted a lot. I just didn't play well this week. I'm certainly disappointed I'm not in the mix right now. That was the goal," he said Saturday. "So, I'm going to come out tomorrow and enjoy my final round and then Bethpage [Black] is one of the best memories in the game of golf I've ever had. [Mickelson finished second, three strokes behind Woods.] I get to go back there next year for the Open, so I'm excited about the chance of trying to break through and win my first Open there."
His wife, Amy, had a different description for the day, however. "A little bit of heartbreak," she said.