If such a statistic could be determined, Phil Mickelson might be the favorite golfer of more golf fans than any other player, at least in the United States. If that title belongs to someone else, say Tiger Woods, rest assured Mickelson will not be on as many “most despised” lists as Woods, since Woods has vocal detractors as well as supporters. This reminiscent of a TV Guide survey many years ago where the winner of the category of Favorite Sportscaster and Least Favorite Sportscaster was one person, Howard Cosell.
In the case of Mickelson, I would think he would be a top three pick on just about anyone’s favorite list. The point is that when Mickelson went to the first tee with a one shot lead on Sunday’s final round of the U.S. Open, he was clearly the crowd favorite. Things went wrong early for the lefty as he double bogeyed the third and fifth holes.
Those errors didn’t knock him out of contention, because the course of the Merion Golf Club proved to be a most formidable task. Concerns leading up to the tournament that the players would have their way with the course seemed laughable by the end of the championship.
It was at the end of the championship when we learned that Mickelson would not win his first U.S. Open. Instead, the title would belong to England’s Justin Rose at one over par. Mickelson would finish in the runner up position for the sixth time in 14 years. Other than an eagle on the short par four 10th hole on Sunday, it looked like the golf gods just weren’t going to let Phil have the elusive championship.
He played well and he played smart. In the final two rounds, Mickelson must have had a dozen putts lip out or just barely miss, but that is golf. Still, watching all the near misses was confounding because even without a few of those putts dropping, Mickelson was still in control, that is until the very end.
Now for a couple rants. ESPN and NBC totally wore me out with all the hype, or over hype. When I heard that Mickelson was flying home to California for his daughter’s Wednesday graduation, I was impressed. That would mean he would be back in the Philadelphia area just three hours before his early Thursday starting time.
There is no doubt that is a massive undertaking, especially with the championship being such a high priority of Mickelson’s. Naturally ESPN and NBC made a huge deal over this over and over again, continually making reference to his having to catch the “red eye” to get back in time. Well, it turns out Mickelson was traveling in a private jet, not some commercial flight. Still daunting, but does not rise to the level of hindrance we were being let to think it was.
Did you know Ben Hogan hit a one iron on the green on the 72nd hole of the 1950 U.S. Open at Merion? Ashot that allowed him to two putt and force an 18-hole playoff. I must have watched too much of the coverage, because it seemed like every time they mentioned the shot I was sure it would have to finally be the last time. I was wrong every time but one.
Then, to top it off, the announcers were able to show the club on camera, but were required to wear white gloves. Maybe it’s the cynic in me, but I just thought that was over the top. If the club really needs to be handled with white gloves, then I’m good if they just leave it in the display case and show me a picture.