The U.S. Open returns to Pinehurst No. 2 for the third time in a week. The restored North Carolina landmark is the site to the first time Phil Mickelson finished second in the national championship. Since that week in June 1999, Mickelson has finished alone or in joint second place another handful of times, including last year.
As Mickelson looks to complete the career Grand Slam next week, we look back at all of the times Lefty has come up just short.
1999 U.S. Open, Pinehurst No. 2
With wife Amy in the last stages of carrying the couple’s first child, Mickelson was fully prepared — and armed with a pager — to walk off the course if she went into labor. She never did. Instead, Mickelson nearly won the U.S. Open. Trailing by a stroke entering the final round, Mickelson was in it all day with Payne Stewart — clutch saves, frustrating misses. On the final hole, Stewart found trouble off the tee and had to lay up, hoping to make par. Faced with a 20-footer uphill to win the U.S. Open, Stewart made one of the iconic putts in major-championship history. Immediately after, Stewart grabbed Mickelson by the face to console him with the great news: “You’re going to be a father!”
2002 U.S. Open, Bethpage Black
The first U.S. Open held at a public course was a brilliant spot for the People’s Champion. Phil Mickelson was never truly in the championship, sitting eight shots back after 36 holes. A Saturday 67 left a glimmer of hope, but Tiger Woods’ coronation for his second U.S. Open crown was on. Still, Mickelson got a runner-up finish, lots of fans and a beautiful birthday serenade out of it from the fans of New York City.
2004 U.S. Open, Shinnecock Hills
For all but two players in the field, Shinnecock Hills seemed practically unplayable in the final round in the Hamptons. At times, the par-3 seventh hole actually was, with play stopped so grounds crew could water the putting surface. Retief Goosen and Phil Mickelson, however, had a showdown for the ages. Goosen’s two-stroke lead was overtaken by Mickelson with consecutive birdies on Nos. 15 and 16, but a three-putt double-bogey 5 at the penultimate hole set up Goosen’s second U.S. Open title. Goosen’s 12-putt final nine was a spectacular putting display under pressure.
2006 U.S. Open, Winged Foot
This was supposed to be the one. Mickelson had won the ’05 PGA Championship and ’06 Masters. Standing on the 72nd tee at Winged Foot, Mickelson was one hole away from completing three-quarters of the Mickelslam. Instead, Mickelson brazenly and foolishly took driver for his tee shot, sprayed it way right and made double bogey. He lost the Open to Geoff Ogilvy. After the fact, Mickelson called himself an idiot.
2009 U.S. Open, Bethpage Black
A return to Bethpage Black netted Phil Mickelson another runner-up finish. Considering the challengers around him, however, this should have been his. Mickelson tied Lucas Glover for the lead in the final round after an incredible eagle on the par-5 13th. The retreat began with a short birdie miss on the next hole and a three-putt bogey on the 15th. Glover took a 6-iron off the final tee at the underwhelming final hole and won his only major to date. The Mickelson family prepared for Amy’s ultimately successful battle against breast cancer.
2013 U.S. Open, Merion
Not even a “leap” reminiscent of his 2004 Masters victory jump could propel Mickelson to his first U.S. Open. Mickelson led by one entering the final round at Merion, which hadn’t hosted the U.S. Open since 1981. Mickelson holed his second shot at the short par-4 10th hole, leading many to think his fateful victory had been assured. However, Mickelson couldn’t maintain his lead, falling back and unable, despite opportunities, to catch Rose in the final holes. He finished second again, this time to Justin Rose.