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.