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Mickelson misses key putts and the cut

Photo: John Biever/SI

Phil Mickelson missed a putt on No. 15.

OAKMONT, Pa. (AP) — No 72nd hole collapse for Phil Mickelson at this year's U.S. Open. No 72nd hole for Phil Mickelson, period.

Lefty and his bum wrist were dumped out of the Open by Angel Cabrera's birdie on his last hole late Friday afternoon. It's the first time in 31 majors he's missed the cut, going back to the 1999 PGA Championship, the longest active streak on the tour.

``No, no, no. I didn't knock Mickelson. Mickelson knocked out himself,'' Cabrera said. ``He shot 11 over par.''

For all the fears about his aching wrist and what that thick, black brace more suited for bowling than birdies would do to his game, it was his putting that really hurt Mickelson on Friday. During a four-hole swing where he dropped six strokes, he had a three-putt followed by a four-putt.

He finished with a 77 that left him with a 36-hole total of 151, one shot over the cut line. At 10-over 150, the cut equaled the Open's highest in relation to par, set at Bethpage in 2002. It was 9 over last year at Winged Foot.

``I felt I had made a great move early in the round if I just kind of made a couple bogeys and didn't do too much damage,'' Mickelson said. ``But (Nos.) 7 through 10 did me in. Six-over in those four holes - take six shots out and I'm right there at 5 over.''

Mickelson wasn't the only big name to have his weekend free up. Colin Montgomerie, who had a spectacular flameout of his own last year, finished at 18-over 158. Two-time winner Retief Goosen, Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia also went home early.

``I was thinking about my game, so I wasn't thinking about who was not going to be here on the weekend,'' Cabrera said. ``I'm sorry for all of the guys that are left out.''

But Mickelson saw this coming. When someone asked him after his round about making the cut, he looked incredulous.

``That would be pretty unbelievable if 11 over was the top half of the field,'' he said. ``I can't buy that. I don't think so.''

That Mickelson's cut streak ended at the U.S. Open of all places is oh, so appropriate.

He craves this title, but the Open has shown him nothing but cruelty. Four times he's been runner-up, usually the victim of bad luck or bad timing. Last year, of course, was all on Mickelson, a collapse of Normanesque proportions.

Needing only to make par on the 18th hole on Sunday, he pulled out his driver - never mind that he'd hit only two fairways the entire round - and overcut it. The ball clattered through trees before landing in trampled rough. Instead of playing it safe and punching out, he went for the green - and hit another tree. His third shot found a plugged lie in a bunker, burying his U.S. Open title hopes right along with it. Instead of kissing the silver trophy, he tied for second with Montgomerie and Jim Furyk.

This year, his bad Open karma kicked in before he had even hit a shot. Practicing at Oakmont Country Club on Memorial Day weekend, he injured his left wrist while chipping out of rough around the green. The inflammation hurt so badly he withdrew from The Memorial and didn't play a full practice round before teeing off Thursday.

A thick black brace kept the pain in check, but he fiddled with it endlessly throughout his two rounds. Wrap on, wrap off. Wrap on, wrap off.

``It'll be fine,'' he said. ``It's sore, but it'll be fine.''

Now it should. He has a few extra days to rest it.

The wrist injury meant Mickelson arrived at Oakmont with lowered expectations. But his 74 Thursday was a respectable score at the beastly course. When he ran off two birdies in his first six holes Friday morning, he looked like he might actually work himself into contention.

Then his round fell apart.

His second shot on the par-4 No. 7 flew from rough into a fescue-filled ditch, a hazard. As the ball disappeared into the weeds, Mickelson took off his cap and slapped it against his leg in disgust. A two-putt left him with a double bogey.

``The double hurt, but you're going to make that. That wasn't that big of a deal,'' he said. ``I thought 7, 8, 9, 10, that's the stretch if I play them 2 over, it's not going to kill me. If I could par the next three, I'll be all right.''

Not even close.

He was in the trap off the tee on No. 8 and two-putted for a bogey. He ran a 60-footer for birdie past the hole and onto the fringe on No. 9, and his chip shot landed 3 feet short.

Then came a four-putt double on 10. He only needed a 6-footer to save par, but it broke too much and snaked 8 feet past the hole. His second effort banged off the back of the cup. By the time he got the ball in the hole, he'd lost six strokes in four holes.

``That stretch,'' he said, ``did me in.''

The rest of his back nine didn't help.

His tee shot on the par-3 13th landed on the fringe, and he opted for a flop shot. But he took almost a full swing, and the ball skipped about 18 feet past the hole. As the crowd gasped, Mickelson kicked at the grass. His par putt missed by 2 feet.

He made a nice birdie on 14, outdriving Furyk and Adam Scott by at least 30 yards and knocking his approach shot to 3 feet. But he backed right up on 15, dumping his tee shot in the rough and finding sand on his second shot.

He closed with bogeys on three of his last four holes.

``It's disappointing to dream as a kid about winning the U.S. Open and spend all this time getting ready for it and have the course setup injure you,'' he said. ``You're trying to win and hit great shots, but you're also trying to not end your career on one shot, or at least suspend it for a while.''

Asked what he planned to do while he waited to see if he made the cut, Mickelson didn't hesitate.

``Go watch the carnage on TV,'' he said.

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