Monday, June 19, 2006


Phil gets trashedAfter waiting a day to let it sink in, I don't know what else to say about FIGJAM Mickelson's collapse yesterday at the 108th U.S. Open that hasn't already been said. Up 2 strokes with 3 holes to go, with every contender falling by the wayside right in front of him, the stage was set for his first U.S. Open win. All he had to do was par the 18th. But he blew it.

There have been several explanations bandied about in the golf world about the reasons why this happened, but none of them satisfy me.

Did he revert to the Phil of old, the risk-taking gambler that he used to be, instead of the seasoned smart golfer he had become that allowed him to win three majors? Maybe.
Was this just a series of faulty decision making and poor course management? That's part of it.
Had he become cocky after winning the most recent Masters and PGA Championships, after years of close calls and shoulda-beens? Possibly.
Was Winged Foot Golf Club the real winner? That is the stupidest thing I've ever heard. Stop saying that, you idiots.

Anyway, all of these reasons are too convenient and logical.

I'm going to blame this choke job on the gallery.

For some reason, the New York crowds adore Phil. This bizarre phenomenon started in 2002 at the U.S. Open at Bethpage on Long Island, when he was the underdog without a major battling the evil juggernaut Tiger Woods, where he would end the weekend as the goofy-grin-and-bear-it runner-up. Ever since then, he's had adoring (and annoying) throngs of fans follow his every move on the golf course, peaking with his 2005 PGA Championship win at Baltusrol in New Jersey. But that was nothing compared to the big gay love fest in Mamaroneck this weekend.

I think it was this incredibly Philophilic crowd that convinced him he could do no wrong on Sunday, as their unwavering affection made him believe he could make them roar with approval with every mighty southpaw swing. With unrelenting chants of "Let's Go Phil!" in the background on every hole (as if his last name was Simms and he was in Giants Stadium in 1985), he tried too many times down the stretch to hit the miracle shot to wow the crowd, instead of the smart lay-up to save par, and it bit him in the man-breasts. On the 16th 5th, he drove the ball into the second cut of rough and tried to make a tricky save shot using a fairway wood; he only hit it 3 feet, and ended up bogeying. He bogeyed the 16th after missing yet another fairway; he had only hit 2 out of 13 all day and none on the back 9. Yet he kept going back to it, and on the 17th he drove the ball into a garbage bag along the left side of the gallery, and somehow managed a scrambling par.

Yet standing on the 18th tee, all Phil needed to do was par the final hole, as everyone else had already folded like a cheap beach chair in the 95° heat. Harrington bogeyed not ONCE, not TWICE, but THRICE down the stretch to end at +7; Furyk stepped away from his par putt attempt about 17 times and predictibly missed it, bogeying to finish +6; Majorless Monty, after waiting forever in the fairway after a great drive, made a last second club change, and shanked it short into the right rough, eventually carding a three-putt bogey to finish +6; Ogilvy managed a chip-in par on the 17th, and a solid up-and-down par on the 18th to finish at +5, birdieless on the day and seemingly destined to be a runner-up.

With the gallery lovingly screaming his name in ecstacy, pumping his ego up to a tremendous size, Phil reached for the driver on the 18th tee, the one club that had forsaken him all day. Did I mention he had hit his last drive INTO A GARBAGE BAG? Johnny Miller even said at this point that the prudent move would be to hit a conservative 4 wood down the middle. He didn't, and instead he sliced his drive way way way left, the ball bouncing off the Champions Pavilion tent and onto the trampled-down rough near the gallery.

At that moment, I had a flashback to the old Phil, the one who could never seal the deal, and could see that he was going to lose it. I saw a picture in my head of Jean Van de Velt in 1999, with his pants rolled up and standing in the water, triple bogeying the 18th to lose the British Open. This is the moment when he made his most costly mistake.

For his second shot, instead of chipping it into the fairway from there to salvage the hole, Lefty tried again tried to make the miraculous shot, a huge slice to reach the green, but the ball hit a tree and only traveled 25 yards ahead of where he was standing. The next shot ended up deep in the left bunker, and a simple up-and-down bogey would force a playoff. But he sent it all the way in the right rough, and he would eventually end up with a double bogey to finish +6 and give Ogilvy the crown in front of a deflated crowd.

Yes, the old Phil reared his goofy smiling head, but it's not completely his fault. And as much as I've bashed the guy on this blog, and I'm mystified as to why people adore him, I felt kind of bad that he unraveled like that at the end. But I blame it on the gallery, who sounded like they were attending an Aerosmith concert instead of a golf tournament. The guy has already won three majors, so what are you rooting for? For him to win every tournament, and make even more money (don't be sad, he still made half a mil while losing yesterday)? Next time he's in town, why don't you annoying people leave him alone and find a new underdog to torment, and maybe go to the Stadium to boo A-Rod instead?

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