— ARDMORE, Pa. (AP) — This wasn't the way it was supposed to end, not on Phil Mickelson's birthday and not at Merion Golf Club, where history will record with little fanfare outside of England that Justin Rose won his first major championship.
When the rain began falling on the back nine Sunday after Mickelson pitched in for an eagle on the 10th hole to take the lead in the U.S. Open, you half expected a rainbow to appear amid the clouds with a trophy at the end of it and bearing Mickelson's name.
He probably expected it, too, if only because the law of averages would seem to demand it. Five times before he had been runner-up in this tournament and no bookie in Vegas would offer odds of any player finishing second in the national championship six times.
But golf is a cruel game and the Open seems even crueler to Mickelson, though some of the fault lies within. He desperately chased the best birthday present of all, only to kick it away once again in a way only Mickelson seems to lose golf tournaments.
Two bad wedges from one of the greatest short game players ever. One more huge disappointment in a tournament Mickelson seems destined never to win.
If he didn't cry, surely some of his many fans did. This wasn't so much a loss as it was a career encapsulating moment, and though Mickelson handled it with his usual grace that didn't make it any easier to stomach.
He began the week by flying all night to make his tee time just so he could watch his daughter speak at her eighth-grade graduation. He ended it by wondering why at he keeps being tortured by a tournament he loves but doesn't love him back.