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PGA Tour Confidential: McDowell wins U.S. Open as Tiger, Phil come up short

Phil Mickelson
Robert Beck/SI
Phil Mickelson finished three shots behind Graeme McDowell and tied for fourth with Tiger Woods.

MICKELSON'S WHITE WHALE, THE U.S. OPEN
Garrity: Let's look at Phil Mickelson's final round. He birdied the first hole and then drove to the back of the green on the par-4 fourth hole. But instead of making eagle — or birdie — he three-putted for par. Did that take the starch out of him? Will he spend his golden years like Sam Snead, answering questions about his U.S. Open curse?

Morfit: When he rolled that putt in on No. 1, I thought this was going to be Phil's day, but like Tiger he hit some very bizarre shots. He seems to try too hard at the U.S. Open. There's too much going on in his head with this tournament. He'll have to be written off before he wins it, if he ever does.

Godich: I agree. He's always tinkering, probably has a million things going through his mind. He just needs to go out there and play.

Evans: Phil will get his U.S. Open.

Bamberger: There's nothing cursed in Phil's life. Look at the grace with which he handles immense disappointment.

Lipsey: Cursed in a goofy sports fan sense. Otherwise, agreed. He's grace personified, at least in public.

Dusek: Phil teased us again. He started great with the long clubs, but a cold putter wasted it. But he could win at upcoming venues like Congressional, Olympic and Merion. I just think his talent won't be denied for his entire career.

Hack: Phil knows that an even-par back nine would have placed him in a Monday morning playoff with Mr. McDowell. Still, he went forever without winning a major, and now he has four of those. If I had to choose one way or the other, I'm guessing he'll win a U.S. Open in the next five or six years.

Gorant: Most disappointing thing about Phil's day is that he missed the chance to grab another runner-up and burnish his Open legend.

Dusek: If Mickelson had won, that would have made all those runner-up finishes look a lot better. It's all about perspective.

Walker: A links-type course like Pebble Beach was never going to be the best chance for Mickelson to kill his white whale. He's got maybe five years left to win a U.S. Open, and he'll win one of those times.

DOES PEBBLE BEACH NEED CHANGES?
Garrity: Davis Love birdied No. 11, Els birdied No. 12, and Woods birdied No. 14. Otherwise, the leaders were pretty much backpedaling or hanging on once they made the turn. No roars, no excitement. Should that stretch be softened slightly for the Open, the way Augusta National restored the roars to its back 9?

Lipsey: The course was borderline putt-putt tricked up, so much harder than our amateur eyes can imagine. Although even par — the USGA's magic number — did win the thing.

Gorant: I don't think they should soften it. Guys had chances, especially Els at 15, but they missed putts. A lot of near misses, too.

Morfit: The only hole that was borderline — over the border, actually — was 14. And that one was a bad hole at the AT&T this year, too.

Van Sickle: It was straight out of mini-golf. The USGA got that part wrong. It was too bad it influenced the outcome the way it did.

Lipsey: I bet we'll see some bigger greens in 2019, especially 17. A little more landing area would be fair.

Dusek: No chance.

Van Sickle: Bigger greens? I don't think so. Who's going to pay for that? Not the USGA. Not the money-grubbing Pebble Beach Co. No chance.

Herre: The 14th green will be changed. That hole was a joke.

Dusek: You're right. The four hole placements are all within steps of each other, and half the putting surface is unusable. Running at 13.5 on the Stimpmeter, it's crazy.

CLIFFS OF DOOM VS. FINISH AT SAWGRASS
Garrity: The USGA wanted the cliffs to come into play, and today they did. Tiger ran it off the edge on 6 and made bogey. Ernie Els went down by the beach on 10 and made double. How do the Cliffs of Doom compare to the sphincter-tightening closing holes at TPC Sawgrass?

Lipsey: The TPC closers are much more fun to watch — 16, 17 and 18 there are the best closing show in golf.

Evans: If they could have re-routed the course, the Cliffs would have been better finishing holes than asking pros to hit a long iron into a tiny green at the 17th and hitting driver and 5-iron into a marginal par-5 18th. But coming in the middle of the round, you won't ever win or lose the tournament there.

Dusek: You can lose a U.S. Open on any hole over four days. Dustin Johnson lost it on the second hole Sunday. And while we're at it, let's re-route St. Andrews so it finishes on 17!

Van Sickle: Farrell makes a good point. There are two holes where the USGA didn't get it right. The 14th with the shaved banks and the 17th, where even Superman couldn't hold a shot. Move the tee up at 17 or soften the green. I've never been a fan of that hole, anyway. What a waste of brilliant ocean-front property. Those two holes piled on some needless bogeys and need improving.

Godich: No comparison between Pebble and Sawgrass. The 16th at Sawgrass is shorter than the ninth and 10th at Pebble. And you could almost fit those three greens at Pebble onto the 17th at Sawgrass.

Van Sickle: Cliffs of Doom are way better. You have to play a poor shot to get hosed. At 17 at Sawgrass, you can hit the green and still go in the water and make triple. Also, they're on the Monterey Peninsula, which beats Florida every dang time.

Lipsey: Better, maybe, but not more fun to watch

WATSON'S CHANCES AT ST. ANDREWS
Garrity: Tom Watson, who won his only U.S. Open here in '82, missed a tiny birdie putt on the 72nd hole, but he's the second-oldest man to make the cut in the U.S. Open. Given his play at Pebble and his unbelievable near-victory last year at Turnberry, can he be possibly contend next month at St. Andrews?

Lipsey: Very unlikely, unless it's bad weather and scores are bad. No geezer can go as low as the tykes.

Morfit: If the weather's crappy, yes.

Godich: Why not? Most impressive was the string of five-footers he made on the front nine today. No secret, but it's all about the putter with the other TW.

Herre: I think Watson's 2009 British showing was a once-in-a-lifetime thing. He's simply too shaky on the greens.

Gorant: The wide-open setup favors the big hitters, which will make it tough for him, but you can't count out his experience and wile on a links course.

Evans: The last two British Opens should have been won by geezers — Norman and Watson. So I wouldn't be surprised if Watson contends and plays in the last group with Tom Lehman and Sandy Lyle.

Lipsey: You've lost your marbles yet again. Sandy Lyle couldn't win the Spook Rock senior flight C title.

Dusek: Another Watson run is too much to hope for. But I suppose a 60-year-old is capable of what a 59-year-old achieved.

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