Phil gave it his all on Sunday, but it was not meant to be.
Shades of the 2012 Ryder Cup.
There was Justin Rose and Phil Mickelson locked in combat at Merion Golf Club just as they had been in their head-to-head match last year. Once again, it was the Englishman who prevailed.
Rose outlasted a great field with a bouncy Sunday that included five birdies and five bogies to end where he began at plus one.
Rain or shine, the 100-year-old and 6,996-yard Merion overcame its own reputation as "too short and soft" and became one of the most difficult Open venues ever; no one finished under par for the week.
The rough was tough, and the greens seemed even tougher. Hitting fairways and greens was paramount to success, but there wasn’t much of it. A typical U.S. Open.
Many will come out of Merion relieved, but there are others who want to throw their clubs in the creek. Take a look at the winners and losers from the week.
OK, so the great Ben Hogan hit a 1-iron, whatever the heck that is, to make it to a playoff and ultimately win the Open here all of those years ago. There’s a plaque right there at the hole, so you know it was a big deal, right?
As it turns out, the pros this weekend learned just how tough a hole it is and probably have increased their regard for Hogan even more, if that is possible.
No birdies were recorded the last two days. Only 22 percent of the field hit the green in regulation.
The 540-yard par-four is a testament to toughness—a beautifully designed hole for those who like to be tortured. Maybe the hardest finishing hole in golf, it resulted in only 11 birdies for the week, while players turned in 83 bogeys, 50 double bogeys and six “others.”
This is one hole the pros hope they never have to see again.
One might have thought that guys who won the U.S. Open in the past would have had a leg up going into Merion, but that surely was not the case. Take Jim Furyk, who won in 2003 at Olympia Fields, shooting a 272 and tying the lowest score for 72 holes.
At Merion, he just never got it going, posting a 77 and 79 and missing the cut. One of the big favorites to win was Graeme McDowell, who tamed Pebble Beach in 2010. McDowell tied for second last year and plays the type of tee-to-green game that usually suits a tight course like Merion. He shot 13 over in the first two days to miss the cut.
Last year’s winner at the Olympic Club in San Francisco, Webb Simpson actually made it to the weekend. But he too succumbed to the travails of Merion and ended well off the pace and tied for 32nd.
Lucas Glover, who is on a bit of a comeback trail after dropping from sight after his big Open win in 2009, really should have passed this time as he shot 16 over, including an 82 on Day 2.
Only two-time champion Ernie Els was able to muscle himself to within reach of the leaders and finish in a very respectable tie for fourth.
In what has to be one of the great responses to a hole-in-one ever, Shawn Stefani whooped it up after his 4-iron at the par-three No. 17 hit off the rough and scooted down a slope, dying into the hole.
Tweeted the obviously elated Stafani, "I didn't know what to do but jump up and down for joy."
Stefani finished 19 over at an Open he will most definitely never forget.
This photo says it all about Luke Donald's week at Merion.
Two world-class performers with odds-on chances to take charge on Sunday blew their chances with errant play and poor putting.
Charl Schwartzel shot a 69 on Saturday to put himself in a good position. The normally calm and consistent Schwartzel, who won the Masters in 2011, displayed excellent iron play but had trouble with his putter on Sunday, ending the day with six bogeys and one double.
Meanwhile, Donald inexplicably hit a driver so wildly it shot into the rough and hit a volunteer. He proceeded to bogey the hole and, like Schwartzel, ended with six bogeys and a double.
For Donald, who does not yet have a major in his otherwise stellar career, there is always next year.
Finally, Rickie Fowler played up to his reputation.
Fowler had the best round on Saturday with a 67 and followed it with a wonderful performance on Sunday that included a birdie on the par-three No. 13 that almost holed the cup.
Highly touted for years, his skills thus far have only reaped one tour win. It should be noted that Fowler has greatly improved his putting, moving from T85 in 2012 to T22 this year in putts per round. And it showed at Merion, where he finished in a tie for 10th.
It wasn’t just McIlroy’s poor outing that makes him a loser but also his childish temper tantrum.
After hitting his ball into the water not once but twice on No. 11, McIlroy uncharacteristically pounded his club into the ground, bending it to the point that it was unusable.
McIlroy was eight over and pretty much out of the running when he started his final round on Sunday. He will have to get both his game and his emotions in check if he wants to get back to his top status.
McIlroy could learn something from Steve Stricker.
Teeing off on the second hole on Sunday, Stricker flared his ball out of bounds. If that was not enough, he then did the unthinkable, scalding a duffer-style shank into the brush that left him red-faced and in deep trouble.
But Stricker didn’t pout or pound his club. Instead, he gathered himself from the triple bogey on the hole and played on.
This must have been highly emotional for Stricker, who entered Sunday with a great chance to win his first major. The 46-year-old winner of 12 tournaments possesses the type of game that works so well at an Open venue. Not only is he a guy who hits it straight and sure, but he is also considered one of the best putters on the tour.
While the win was not to be, Stricker stuck it out and played hard throughout his round. He's true professional and a winner in most people's books.
Sergio came into the Open as a loser...and left the same way.
Due to a history of errant play in majors, he had all the momentum of a semi-truck going uphill.
Sergio did not disappoint. He recorded some of the biggest scores on the course, including a 10 and an eight on No. 15 in the first and third rounds.
He finished at 15 over in a tie for 45th place and retained his position as the player with the second-most tour wins (eight) not to have won a major.
Don’t bet against Day on a Sunday major.
Until he lipped out a short putt on the 18th, it looked like he would be in the clubhouse at plus two—only one back of Rose and Mickelson.
At one point, Day had three birdies in the first 10 holes to push himself to the top of the leaderboard. Remember, he finished right behind Adam Scott and Angel Cabrera at this year’s Masters and finished second at the 2011 U.S. Open.
The Australian golfer is to be reckoned with and will surely make his presence known in majors to come.
That is how long Tiger Woods' major drought has lasted, and he will have to wait until the British Open at Muirfield in July for another chance to end it.
“The conditions were tough out there,” said Tiger to NBC cameras as he exited the course.
Really? His performance was even tougher to watch. Tiger ended his debacle at Merion 13 over par—his worst performance in a major as a pro. Tiger had been over par entering the last 11 final rounds of a major.
You have to hit fairways at an Open, and Tiger hit only six the entire day on Sunday. That’s 42 percent. For the week, he hit less than 70 percent of his fairways and also hit only 65 percent of greens in regulation.
That is not going to get it done.
He never looked right even though, at three over, he was within chipping distance of the leaders after the first round. Was it his sore wrist/elbow that hindered his play? Or his below-average putting? His was 1.78, while the field averaged 1.74.
Earlier in the week, Tiger had talked about grinding it out in order to win. He probably wasn’t thinking about his teeth when he said it.
Shooting up the leaderboard on Sunday with a brilliant display of birdies, Jason Dufner made Merion look like his home course.
If he hadn’t hit a shot out of bounds on the 15, ending up with a triple bogey, he would have a perfect scorecard of six birdies and the rest pars.
As it was, his 67 was the best score of the day, pushing him into a tie for fifth place.
Phil talked about shooting a subpar round on Sunday and instead came in at three over. His sixth second-place finish at America's national championship has to be one of the most frustrating of his career.
Mickelson was the leader after 54 holes at one under, but it was a very tentative lead to be sure, with a number of top players breathing down his neck.
Ultimately, he has only himself to blame for not winning. He got out of the gate poorly on Sunday, scoring double bogeys on holes No. 3 and No. 6. He made a miraculous eagle from the fairway on the 10th, only to give it back when he misread the distance on the short par-three No. 13.
You can only give back so much, Phil. His 73 was just not good enough, except for another runner-up.
Hunter Mahan was there all the way until the end. He was in the last group playing alongside Phil, both in pursuit of their first U.S. Open win.
Mahan may not have been predicted to be there. A wonderfully consistent driver of the ball, he is not known for his putting. Prior to the Open, he ranked 146th in putting average on the tour.
At the Open, he ranked first. Mahan played consistently throughout the round leading up to the final holes and gave himself a great chance of winning. Mahan finished in a tie for fourth at five over.