More than two decades of play in the major known as the toughest test in golf has produced everything from agony to aggravation, mostly torment, never triumph. And all Phil Mickelson has to show from the U.S. Open are silver medals — a record six of them — for finishing second.
1999, Pinehurst - One shot behind Payne Stewart
Mickelson had a one-shot lead with three to play. Stewart made a 25-foot par putt on the 16th, a 4-foot birdie putt on the 17th and a 15-foot par putt on the 18th. Mickelson missed a 6-foot par putt on the 16th, an 8-foot birdie putt on the 17th and a 25-foot birdie putt on the 18th.
Mickelson played the entire tournament with a pager in his golf bag and said he would withdraw if his wife went into labour with their first child. Amy Mickelson gave birth to a daughter the next day.
“I think it will be interesting to see if I’m able to break through when I get in this situation again.” — Phil Mickelson.
2002, Bethpage Black - Three shots behind Tiger Woods
Mickelson, five shots behind at the start of the final round, birdied the par-5 13th to get within two shots. Woods answered with a 2-iron onto the 13th green for a two-putt birdie. Moments later, Mickelson’s tee shot on the 16th found the rough and he couldn’t reach the green, making bogey.
Woods and Mickelson were the only players at par or better.
"I know it will happen eventually. Having the chance to compete against arguably the greatest player of all time is a special opportunity, and I'm getting closer to breaking through." - Phil Mickelson
2004, Shinnecock Hills - Two shots behind Retief Goosen
Tied for the lead on the par-3 17th, Mickelson hit into a bunker. He blasted out to 5 feet above the hole and three-putted for double bogey. Goosen one-putted the last six greens to win the U.S. Open for the second time in his career.
No golfer broke par in the final round and average score was 78.7 after the greens burned out and turned brown. USGA officials decided that dry, fast greens would make the course more challenging but the greens proved too difficult to putt on, even for the world's greatest golfers.
"I played some of the best golf of my life, I hit some of my best shots, I putted better than I probably have ever putted and I still couldn't shoot par [on the last day]. That, surely, cannot be acceptable" - Phil Mickelson
2006, Winged Foot - One shot behind Geoff Ogilvy
With a one-shot lead playing the 18th hole, Mickelson hit a wild slice toward the corporate tent and tried to hit 3-iron around a tree toward the green. It hit the tree and came straight down in the rough. His third shot plugged into a bunker, and his sand shot went through the green. He made double bogey.
Mickelson was trying to join Tiger Woods as the only players in the last 50 years to win three straight majors.
"I still am in shock that I did that. I just can't believe that I did that. I am such an idiot. I can't believe I couldn't par the last hole. It really stings." - Phil Mickelson
2009, Bethpage Black - Two shots behind Lucas Glover
After a sensational charge to tie for the lead, Mickelson hit hybrid out of the rough to the collar of the green on the 15th. He left his putt 3 feet short and missed that one for par. On the 17th, he came up short and chipped to 8 feet, missing the par putt.
The tournament was Mickelson's last before a summer of uncertainty after learning only a month earlier that his wife, Amy, had breast cancer.
"Certainly I'm disappointed, but now that it's over, I've got more important things going on." - Phil Mickelson
2013, Merion Golf Club - Two shots behind Justin Rose
Mickelson was one shot behind when he hit wedge over the green on the par-3 13th hole and made bogey. Still one shot behind in the 15th fairway, his wedge was so short that he used a wedge to chip from the putting green and made another bogey.
It was the first time Mickelson had the outright lead (one shot) going into the final round of a U.S. Open.
"This is tough to swallow after coming so close. This was my best chance of all of them. I was playing well, I had a golf course I really liked that I could play aggressive on a number of holes. I felt like this was as good an opportunity I could ask for and to not get it ... it hurts." - Phil Mickelson