After three days and the first nine holes of golf at the 2011 British Open, Phil Mickelson found himself just one shot behind eventual winner Darren Clarke.
It was a scenario that has played itself out on many occasions for Mickelson, and his inability to close has become notorious.
With four major championships, Mickelson’s abilities can never be questioned, but what has been questioned is his mental tolerance for high-pressure situations.
Mickelson perennially makes shots that get himself within striking distance of another championship, but he doesn’t have that killer mentality to make it happen.
Most of Mickelson’s victories recently have been over contenders that have faltered on the last day, and all he had to do was stay conservative with his play. Any time there is a high-pressure situation, Mickelson starts to rush his shots and forces errors that bite him in the long run.
It seems like a broken record when it comes to Mickelson’s game, coming within just a few strokes of the lead and collapsing under the pressure. This week at Royal St. George’s, he collapsed after tying Clarke with a beautiful eagle putt.
As soon as the pressure mounted, Mickelson folded and again came in second at a major. With this British Open failure, Mickelson has six total runner-up finishes in major championships.
Mickelson is such an enigma: He has 47 professional tournament victories, which is no fluke. When push comes to shove, he is one of the best golfers of our generation.
When he suffers is as soon as the stage gets too big. Like a starting pitcher who pitches a shutout through the eighth inning and gives up six runs in the ninth, Mickelson plays consistent enough to get himself in the right position, but he just can’t figure out how to seal victories.
No matter what his final career numbers are, Mickelson is one of the best golfers to play on the PGA Tour.
But he will be known as much for his failures as his successes.