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posted: 6/17/2013 5:30 AM

Don't feel sorry for Mickelson

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  • Phil Mickelson reacts as his ball hit from a bunker narrowly misses the hole on an eagle-attempt during the final day of the U.S. Open golf tournament on Sunday, June 16, 2013, at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa.

      Phil Mickelson reacts as his ball hit from a bunker narrowly misses the hole on an eagle-attempt during the final day of the U.S. Open golf tournament on Sunday, June 16, 2013, at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa.
    Associated Press

  • Phil Mickelson reacts after missing a shot on the 18th hole during the fourth round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Merion Golf Club, Sunday, June 16, 2013, in Ardmore, Pa.

      Phil Mickelson reacts after missing a shot on the 18th hole during the fourth round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Merion Golf Club, Sunday, June 16, 2013, in Ardmore, Pa.
    Associated Press

  • Phil Mickelson reacts after missing a shot on the 18th hole during the fourth round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Merion Golf Club, Sunday, June 16, 2013, in Ardmore, Pa.

      Phil Mickelson reacts after missing a shot on the 18th hole during the fourth round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Merion Golf Club, Sunday, June 16, 2013, in Ardmore, Pa.
    Associated Press

 
 

Look, anyone can win golf's United States Open.

Well, maybe not anyone. Neither I nor a donkey on roller skates could.

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But some otherwise mundane pros -- among them Steve Jones, Lucas Glover and just last year Webb Simpson -- have kissed the trophy during the past couple decades.

All have been legitimate PGA Tour players but none will be confused with Tiger Woods.

Conversely, Phil Mickelson has been right up there with the best players of his era but hasn't won the U.S. Open.

Mickelson has done something even more remarkable: Sunday represented the sixth time he finished second in the Open. To do that, a golfer must be either trying not to win or had an uncanny ability to make the wrong play at the wrong time.

There is no valid explanation for a golfer like Mickelson being good enough to win the U.S. Open but never being good enough on U.S. Open week to do so.

There is no excuse, either.

Except that he choked. That he tried dumb shots. That he wasn't mentally tough enough.

Mickelson is portrayed as a tragic figure again this year after starting the round in the lead, losing the lead, regaining the lead and ultimately finishing 2 strokes behind champion Justin Rose.

The characterization will continue this week. It will for another year. If he doesn't win the Open in 2014 or ever, it will follow him to the end of his career.

Is there any doubt that the tragedy -- that's tragedy strictly in a sports context by the way -- has been self-inflicted?

I don't feel sorry for Phil Mickelson. If I did I would have to feel sorry for the Cubs instead of just for their fans. I'd feel sorry for a great actor who makes a series of bad movies. I'd feel sorry for anyone blessed with greatness but doesn't fulfill his potential.

For a long time the reason given for Mickelson's failures was that he was trying to be all he can be in an era when Woods was blocking him.

But Woods isn't Woods anymore. He hasn't been since 2008. That's five U.S. Opens ago and Mickelson didn't win any of them.

NBC analyst Johnny Miller said of Sunday's round, "Phil had a million chances." Mickelson admitted on TV, "This was as good an opportunity as I could hope for."

Yet he lost.

Again.

Mickelson is one of golf's most popular figures, if not its most popular since Woods' decline, and perhaps the disappointments help fans relate to him.

Mickelson turned 43 Sunday and the galleries sang "Happy Birthday." The golf community admires Mickelson for being so gracious in defeat, which is in contrast to Greg Norman being grumpy in similar circumstances.

But Norman wasn't unlucky any more than Mickelson has been. They have just been just bad enough when they needed to be just a bit better.

Neither Mickelson nor Norman lost merely on the final hole. They lost from start to finish. Converting a shot or two early could have provided a cushion that would have eliminated the prospect of misfortune on the back nine of the final round.

They didn't make that shot sooner or later, however, allowing others to stay in contention and in the end find a way to beat them.

"If I never win an Open," Mickelson said, "every time I think back at the U.S. Open I (will) think of heartbreak."

Phil Mickelson has broken his own heart at least six times in the U.S. Open by underachieving.

But at least his six seconds are more remarkable than winning once would be.

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