Tiger Woods, Phil, Ernie all miss big opportunity at US Open
Tiger Woods had the most to gain by winning the US Open. But a US Open win would have been the first for Phil Mickelson. And for Ernie Els, a chance to stay relevant.
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No one should have been surprised that Woods did not play his best golf Sunday, even after his 66 in the third round in which he finally delivered so many special shots that have defined his career. He keeps talking about a "long process" in getting his game back together, and there's some truth to that. But he's not there yet.Skip to next paragraph
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There is too much uncertainty over too many shots, and way too much commotion inside his head from outside forces, namely the state of his marriage and the unending fallout from his affairs.
"The two major championships I finished, I had a chance to win both of them," he said. "So it's not too bad."
Mickelson took another step toward becoming his generation's Sam Snead, who never won the U.S. Open. This might have been an even better opportunity than Lefty had last year at Bethpage Black, when he was runner-up for a record fifth time.
"I wanted to win," he said. "I'm glad it wasn't a second."
The humor veiled great disappointment, for this U.S. Open opportunity came with much more than a trophy. Mickelson could have gone to No. 1 in the world for the first time, and gone to St. Andrews with great hype about a Grand Slam. Only five other players had ever won the first two legs of the modern Grand Slam.
Aside from missing key putts, Mickelson didn't do much wrong. He three-putted from 20 feet on the 10th, missed an 8-foot par putt on the 14th that he struck perfectly, and picked up his last bogey when he had to make birdie, aiming at the flag on the 16th.
What stings for Els is that of those three, he had the best chance of winning.
A 5-iron to 2 feet on the 12th got him back to even for the tournament, two shots out of the lead. And after a bogey on the 14th, Els was poised to make a run with a wedge he stuffed on the 15th to 4 feet. He missed that (and had to make a 5-foot par), then missed a par from 8 feet on the 17th to fall to 2 over. Needing an eagle on the par-5 18th, his 3-iron was weak and to the right.
"I had some chances coming down the stretch, but I wasn't able to convert," Els said Monday on his website. "I guess a handful of other players could say the same thing. That's major championship golf. It's always won or lost by the tiniest of margins."
In this case, it was a little of both.
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