Phil Mickelson will go down as one of the best putters in golf history, which is why it is all the more tragic that his putter let him down the most at the 2013 U.S. Open.
It was his sixth second-place finish in the U.S. Open, which is the most in tournament history, as noted by ESPN Stats & Info:
Phil Mickelson's 6 second-place finishes are most in U.S. Open history. pic.twitter.com/Q2BKUi5jDz— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 16, 2013
Lefty hit enough fairways and greens to win the tournament, but when he needed to sink birdie putts on Saturday and Sunday, too often he failed to do so.
Will Mickelson ever win a U.S. Open Title?
Phil being Phil, you expect him to counter brilliant shots with head-scratchers, and there were certainly a few of those during his rounds at Merion's East Course. That said, he was in prime position to win the tournament only to find that the most reliable part of his game was nowhere to be found.
After his near-perfect opening round of 67 on Thursday, Mickelson's struggles with the flat stick showed up early in Round 2. As the PGA Tour noted, he three-putted No. 1 to drop a shot right out of the gate:
Phil Mickelson three-putted for bogey at No. 1 to drop to -2. Nicolas Colsaerts two-putted for birdie at No. 2. Tie game. #USOpen— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) June 14, 2013
Then, later on in the round, Mickelson nearly holed out from the fairway for eagle on No. 8, leaving himself an easy, two-foot putt for his birdie. Mickelson missed the gimme putt and had to settle for a disappointing par, as noted by KPMG Mickelson:
This was a common narrative surrounding Lefty's 2013 U.S. Open experience, and it reared up in a bad way again on Sunday in the final round.
On the reachable par-5 second hole, Mickelson was able to hit a brilliant third shot out of the bunker that nearly went into the hole, setting himself up for a relatively easy birdie putt. As Golf.com noted, Lefty's putter let him down again, and he couldn't seize the golden opportunity to improve his score:
Mickelson's putter lets him down again. Nearly holes a bunker shot for eagle, but then he misses a 5-footer for bird http://t.co/UbMJ3Bkst6— Golf.com (@si_golf) June 16, 2013
Again, this was a common theme for Mickelson at Merion. Just like his gorgeous bunker shot on No. 2, he put together a stunning collection of brilliant shots that culminated with his eagle from the right-hand rough on No. 10.
Unfortunately, when he needed to make clutch putts, he simply couldn't find the bottom of the cup.
Justin Rose beat Mickelson by two strokes and finished the tournament with a total of 120 putts.
Mickelson finished the tournament with 129 putts.
Mickelson—the man who has been known as one of the world's best putters for the better part of the past two decades—needed nine more putts than the leader, who won by just two strokes.
Of all the things that could go wrong with Mickelson's game, you'd be foolish to predict it would be his putting. For the season, Lefty ranks No. 8 in the "strokes gained - putting" stat, and he's always been a phenomenal player on the greens.
But when he needed it the most, it was Mickelson's putter that let him down the most at the 2013 U.S. Open.
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