To be perfectly honest, I thought that Phil Mickelson's window had already been closed and bolted prior to the U.S. Open.
I thought Mickelson's best chance was 2006 at Winged Foot when he stubbornly and foolishly launched his driver off the roof of a hospitality tent on the 18th tee that led to a calamity of errors and another missed U.S. Open possibility.
But when he unexpectedly played so well a couple weeks ago at Merion, I re-thought that opinion for a second.
Then he missed the green on the 110-yard yard, par-three 13th late Sunday afternoon, and the noise I heard in the background was that window slamming shut again.
Then, in a bit of piling on perhaps, he came to the 18th tee needing a birdie to catch Justin Rose. To get that birdie, he and everyone else knew he needed to hit the fairway.
But he missed it left, leaving a bad lie for a long shot that had to get onto the green. But it didn’t, and Mickelson’s last gasp was to hope for a miracle shot from his short game, and that didn’t happen.
To me, that validates my feeling about Mickelson that I’ve had for a long time:
He’s a heck of player. He’s in the World Golf of Fame. He’s won four majors.
But he’s so talented, he should have won a handful more than that. The reason he hasn’t? At critical times in those other opportunities, when he’s had to hit a shot, he’s failed to do so.
The U.S. Open was just the latest example. And while my feeling takes nothing away from what he’s accomplished, it has kept him from winning more.
Mickelson celebrated his 43rd birthday on that fateful Sunday at Merion. That hardly makes him elderly, even in golf terms.
Ten majors have been won by golfers at least as old at Mickelson, including Jack Nicklaus, who was 46 when he won the 1986 Masters, and Julius Boros, who was 48 when he won the 1968 PGA Championship.
Back to that “window," however, I’m saying that opening will last no longer than a couple years. Why?
Well, Mickelson has psoriatic arthritis, a disease he’s been dealing with and is having success with. How long that might last is anybody’s guess.
He also is carrying around golf bag full of scar tissue from having to endure the domination of Tiger Woods, which has also played a role in success in major championships.
An important question in all of this is how long will Mickelson’s “post-U.S. Open” last?
He struggled for months after Winged Foot, but he might even have taken this one harder.
He snapped at a USGA official on Sunday after failing to reach the par-three third hole, a hole that measured 274 yards.
The NBC broadcast caught him saying, “That’s terrible, 274 (yards), we can’t even reach it.”
That’s pretty unusual for the guy who’s constantly smiling.
And that’s why I question as to how long this “hangover” is going to last. He could easily still be “lost” next month at the Open Championship.
Another big part of what Mickelson may or may not do in the majors going forward is his enthusiasm and his drive to compete at the highest level.
He still enjoys competition, that’s obvious by watching him grinding his way around a golf course like he did at Merion.
But he’s also one of the great family men of this era of professional golf. He’s been through his wife and mother both being stricken with breast cancer and all that goes with that.
Now his children are getting a bit older and, based on what he did at Merion, Mickelson won’t be letting golf get in the way of his family.
After arriving in Philadelphia at the beginning of the week, and when bad weather blanketed the area, he opted to fly back to San Diego to practice and attend his daughter’s eighth-grade graduation Wednesday night.
He then flew back to Philadelphia overnight, arrived at the course at 5:37 a.m. for his early tee time and shot 67.
As his children get older, they’ll be having bigger and bigger events, and Mickelson will be there.
I’m sticking with the two-year window.
The man has a lot on his plat, and that plate gets harder and harder to balance as the years go by.
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