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Lefty reminds us he's not immune
Phil Mickelson followed up his win at last month’s Open Championship with a dreadful showing at the PGA Championship, firing a 12-over-par 292, the lowlight of which was a 78 in Saturday’s third round.
Lefty’s ill-starred weekend made Tiger Woods’ sputtering 4-over effort look like championship-level golf, and it would seem to be at odds with the public perception of Mickelson’s game — especially now that he has five major championships under his belt.
But historically, Phil hasn’t exactly been immune from the occasional stinker, and this year’s final major is the latest flop in recent memory for the world’s No. 2 golfer. Here’s a look back at Mickelson’s worst finishes since 2002 in tournaments in which he made the cut and played all four rounds:
2013 MASTERS: Mickelson played extremely well at the Open Championship and the U.S. Open, but the bread around that sandwich has been pretty stale. Phil opened the major schedule this year with a 9-over 297 at the Masters. Mickelson called his third-round 77 “beyond terrible” and was over par in three rounds for just the second time in his Masters career.
2012 U.S. OPEN: After a tie for third at the Masters, expectations were high for Mickelson. But he lost control of his game at the U.S. Open in June 2012. Phil played alongside Woods and Bubba Watson the first two days at Olympic Club, and barely made the cut at 7-over. After a third-round 71, Mickelson closed with a Sunday 78 to finish at 296 — 16-over par — for the tournament. The following month, Mickelson missed the cut at the Open Championship after shooting 11-over in his first two rounds.
2011 CADILLAC CHAMPIONSHIP: Mickelson’s 292 wasn’t quite as egregious as this week’s PGA, since the monster at Doral checks in at a par 72. But at 4-over, Mickelson finished 20 strokes behind winner Nick Watney’s pace, and only eight players of the 66 finishers in the limited field posted a worse four-round total. Phil played his first three rounds alongside his old buddy Woods, but it was his final round 76 that really defined Mickelson’s weekend.
2009 PGA CHAMPIONSHIP: 300 is a great score if you’re going bowling — not so much if you’re trying to play winning golf. The week before the 2009 PGA, Mickelson struggled at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, posting a 7-over 287, and then he followed it up with a 300 at Hazeltine National, the worst four-round score since his 28-over 308 at the 1998 British Open (a tournament that included a third-round 85). Earlier in 2009, however, Phil’s wife, Amy, had been diagnosed with breast cancer, so I tend to want to give him a pass for being more focused on things other than his golf game.
2008 BRITISH OPEN: To watch Mickelson’s first round at the 2008 Open Championship, it’s hard to believe he even made it to Sunday. After a 9-over-par 79 in the opening round, Mickelson responded with a second-round 68 at Royal Birkdale to make the cut. But the weekend started with a 76 in Round 3, and by the time all was said and done, Phil checked in with a 14-over 294 for the week. If there was any consolation, it was that even the winner, Padraig Harrington, finished a 3-over-par.
2008 PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP: Three months before slogging through the British, Mickelson played poorly at the Players Championship, shooting a 4-over 292. Mickelson entered the tournament as the defending champion, having shot 11-under at TPC Sawgrass the year before. But he would have no such luck in 2008, with a final-round 78 dropping him from a tie for fourth at 2-under to a tie for 21st, nowhere near the top of the leaderboard.
2007 BRIDGESTONE INVITATIONAL: Mickelson won three tournaments in 2007, but his season will probably be better remembered for his absolute disasters at some of the season’s biggest tournaments. One of them came in August at the Bridgestone, where Mickelson followed up missed cuts at the U.S. Open, AT&T National and British Open by playing all four rounds over par. He finished at 13-over 293, miles behind the runaway winner, Woods, who was the only player under par at 8-under.
2007 MASTERS: As we noted above, the majors weren’t kind to Phil in 2007 — and that also applied when he made the cut. One week after stumbling at the Bridgestone, Mickelson played the PGA at 6-over, but that was an improvement over the Masters, when Lefty logged a 11-over 299, with two 73s sandwiched in between an opening-round 76 and a Sunday 77. No one finished under par in that year’s Masters, but Phil was never even in contention. Not surprisingly, Mickelson dropped swing coach Rick Smith in favor of Butch Harmon just a couple weeks later.
2005 U.S. OPEN: The U.S. Open has always been a special challenge for Phil, with six second-place finishes at the tournament over the years. But Pinehurst No. 2 made it so that Mickelson was never in contention in 2005, as he shot a 12-over 292 to finish in a tie for 33rd. The week started off well enough, with Mickelson firing a 1-under 69 on Thursday to enter the clubhouse in a tie for sixth, but things fell apart on Friday, when he shot a 77 to drop from contention. The weekend didn’t provide much relief either, as Phil’s unraveling continued with a 72 and a 74. Soon enough, that was all forgotten, however, as he won that year’s PGA Championship for his second career major
2003 BRITISH OPEN: Sure, majors are supposed to be tough, but Phil made Royal St. George’s tougher than it needed to be in 2003, turning in a 13-over 297 for the tournament. He was over par in all four rounds, and, at 14 shots behind winner Ben Curtis, the then-33-year-old Phil only added to his reputation at the time as the best golfer to never win a major. His true redemption wouldn’t come for another decade, when he finally won the claret jug this July.
2002 PGA CHAMPIONSHIP: Mickelson’s 12 top-10 finishes in 2002 meant little at the PGA, where even a final-round 68 couldn’t save Phil from a disastrous first three rounds. Mickelson shot a 4-over 76 in the first round at Hazeltine, the site of that 2009 PGA disaster, but it was a 78 on Saturday that really did Lefty in. It was hard to believe this was the same Phil who shot 8-under at the Masters earlier that year, and I’m sure he considered himself lucky that someone paid him $26,000 for that poor finish.