Another Father’s Day has come and gone for everybody’s favorite U.S. Open bridesmaid, which leaves us with the question of Father Time. With his T-64 finish at Chambers Bay this week, six-time Open runner-up Phil Mickelson fell short yet again in his quest to complete the career Grand Slam. The oldest man to ever win our national championship was Hale Irwin, who did so at the age of 45. Mickelson turns 46 next June. Makes a golf fan wonder: what’s left for Lefty? Here’s a look at the upcoming Open venues, and some thoughts on how we might expect ol’ Phil to fare.
2016: Oakmont Country Club
Oakmont has hosted a record eight U.S. Opens, but Mickelson has only played in two of them. Unlike Johnny Miller, he has never torn the course up with a 63. In ’94, the year Ernie Els outlasted Loren Roberts and Colin Montgomerie in a Monday playoff, Phil finished tied for 47th. In 2007, when Angel Cabrera claimed the crown, Mickelson, nursing a wrist injury, missed the cut by one shot with a two-day total of 11 over par. Small sample, to be sure, but not a cause for the greatest optimism. At a notoriously tough track famed for its Church Pew bunker, Mickelson might want to say his prayers.
2017: Erin Hills Golf Course
A baby-faced course by Open standards, Erin Hills was born in 2006 but is already something of an old soul. Designed by Michael Hurdzan and Dana Fry, it has been renovated twice, under the careful watch of the USGA, the tweaks intended to make it Open ready. You’re forgiven here for thinking of Chambers Bay. Unlike Chambers, Erin Hills is inland, but it’s also largely tree-less, with a links-like feel. It’s brutish from the back tees, tipping out at more than 7,800 yards. It hosted the 2011 U.S. Amateur Championship, but 2017 will mark its first major. That makes it a blank slate. Not a bad place to write some history.
2018: Shinnecock Hills Golf Club
Painful memories await at Shinnecock Hills, the site of one of Mickelson’s closest Open calls. In 2004 (above), trailing Retief Goosen by two to start the final round, Mickelson played sharply and surged into the lead late with back-to-back birdies on 15 and 16. But a double-bogey on 17 proved his undoing, marked by a three-jack from five feet. Goosen won by two, and Lefty finished second, his third runner-up showing in the championship. Little did he know, he still had three to go.
2019: Pebble Beach Golf Links
Mark O’Meara has been dubbed the Prince of Pebble. But Mickelson has claimed four coastal crowns as well. Those wins, of course, have come at the AT&T Championship, and Pebble plays quite differently in the summer. The prevailing winds flip-flop, and so, it appears, do Mickelson’s fortunes. In 2000, the year Tiger lapped the field, Lefty finished tied for 16th. In 2010, he teased his ardent fans with a 66 on Friday to put him one shot off the lead going into the weekend. A pair of 73s on Saturday and Sunday left him in fourth place.
2020: Winged Foot Golf Club
No, it won’t be the lead sentence in his obituary. But Phil’s closing hole at the ’06 U.S. Open probably belongs in the second paragraph. Leading Geoff Ogilvy by one, Mickelson played aggressively with driver off the tee, and blocked his shot badly into the trees. His recovery shot caught wood as well, and before you knew it, Mickelson made double. Second place again. “I just can’t believe that I did that,” he said afterwards. “I am such an idiot.” The good news is, Phil will be 50 in 2020, old enough to know better on his next Winged Foot go-around.
2021: Torrey Pines Golf Course, San Diego, CA
No one knows this venue better than Phil, who grew up in San Diego, played Torrey as a kid and has parlayed that course knowledge into four wins as a pro. On the downside, Mickelson hasn’t won here since Rees Jones redesigned the South Course in advance of the 2008 U.S. Open, when Tiger won and Mickelson finished tied for 18th. On the upside, Torrey will be going under the knife again, and Mickelson is handling the operation. Inside information, anyone?
2022: The Country Club
At this point, he’ll be popping a lot of Centrum Silver, but maybe Phil can channel the youthful spirit of Francis Ouimet, the 20-year-old former caddie who, in 1913, bested legends Harry Vardon and Ted Ray for one of the most unlikely Open victories of all time. In 1988, the last time the national championship was played at the Country Club, Curtis Strange won and Lefty wasn’t in the field. But he does have happy Brookline memories to draw in: the epic Sunday comeback by the United States team at the ’99 Ryder Cup (above). Phil was part of that charge, with a 5 and 3 win over the immortal Jarmo Sandelin.
2023: Los Angeles Country Club
This grand old club, with its great George C. Thomas design, has long been famously off-limits to “Hollywood types.” But now picture this: an aging lefty gunslinger, down to his last bullets, outduels a field of youthful rivals. That’s one for the silver screen.