Mickelson's epic collapse at Winged Foot paves the way for Ogilvy

On Sunday morning Juli wished Geoff happy Father's Day, and "I didn't know how to take it," he said. That's because the preggers Juli won't deliver their first child until November. Still, the holiday cheer must have inspired Ogilvy because when he made birdies on 5 and 6 he suddenly had a two-stroke lead. He was still atop the leader board as late as the 10th hole, but with a bogey on 11 he dropped one back of Mickelson into a four-way tie with Jim Furyk, Padraig Harrington and Colin Montgomerie.

That was when Ogilvy began a short-game clinic. He put his tee shot on the par-3 13th in a bunker on the short side of the green, but he clanged his second shot off the flagstick and saved par. He got up and down for par at 16, and on the par-4 17th a series of misadventures in the gnarly rough left him lying three and still 30 feet from the flag, in the first cut. As Ogilvy was sizing up the shot Squirrel pulled a Bruce Edwards, and his boss was all too happy to play the part of Tom Watson. "He said, 'Just chip it in,'" Ogilvy remarked afterward. 'Why don't you just chip it in?'" So he did.

On 18 Ogilvy busted a clutch drive down the fairway, but his ball came to rest in a divot. Betraying no emotion at his misfortune, he ripped a six-iron at the flag. "I thought I had hit my career shot there," he said. "But it caught a soft bounce, and [the ball] came all the way back down the hill. And then I thought I was really done for. I mean, you're not going to do it from there."

But he did, playing a delicate pitch to six feet and pouring the putt into the cup. "I was hitting that putt thinking this may get me in a playoff," Ogilvy said. "I never thought Phil would make bogey at the last."

He didn't, of course.

Ogilvy's winning score of five over was the highest at an Open since 1974, when Hale Irwin survived the so-called Massacre at Winged Foot at seven over. To win on such a grueling track is a challenge as much mental as physical, and on Sunday evening Ogilvy spoke extensively about the psychological aspects of golf. "For the most part the best players are the best because they're the best up here," he said, tapping his melon. "Tiger Woods is the best golfer in the world because he's got the best brain. He hits the ball well, but there are plenty of guys that hit the ball well. But he's got the best head."

Conspicuously absent from the discussion was the star-crossed Mickelson. He had retreated to the privacy of the clubhouse and was sitting at his locker, motionless, staring into space with his head resting wearily in his hands. Amy came by to give him a kiss, but Phil didn't seem to notice. In his roller-coaster career Mickelson has taken plenty of punches to the solar plexus, but he has always come back for more. This one will be harder to get over. The U.S. Open has become his annual psychodrama, much as the Masters tortured Greg Norman. Mickelson has now finished second at the Open four times, including another final-hole loss, in 1999. "I've never seen him like this," Amy whispered. "I think he's in shock."

Finally, Phil stirred, packing up and then beginning the slow trudge home. As he snaked through the locker room he passed numerous mementos of Winged Foot's glorious U.S. Open history and the legends who have enjoyed starring roles. There was a reproduction of a 1929 newspaper trumpeting Bobby Jones's victory. A 1959 clipping celebrated Billy Casper's heroics. A photograph from 1984 showed a beaming Fuzzy Zoeller holding the winner's trophy aloft, and there was also a picture of Irwin, signed by the man himself: TO WINGED FOOT G.C. WHERE MY DREAMS WERE FULFILLED. Mickelson walked past all of this history without even noticing, leaving the locker room deserted but for all of its ghosts.

 

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