BETHESDA, Md. (AP) — Phil Mickelson’s U.S. Open ended where it began, in the same body of water.
On his last hole of the championship Sunday, Mickelson stood in a greenside bunker launched a rainbow that splashed on the fly, some 15 feet beyond the other side of the peninsula green. Even the adoring gallery that had cheered so loudly during his walk up the fairway couldn’t help but let out a collective giggle.
After two unsuccessful drops on the steep lakeside slope, he had to place the ball and chip back toward the pin, where he made a 6-footer for double bogey to finish an even par round of 71 and a 7-over total of 291.
“That bunker’s not an easy spot to be in today,” Mickelson said, “and I hit a poor shot on top of it.”
The lake also received Mickelson’s opening shot in his first round on Thursday, when he started on the nearby par 3 10th and left his tee shot well short. He double bogeyed that hole as well.
Mickelson’s 69 on Friday was his only round under par on a course receptive for U.S. Open scores lower than the norm.
“I thought that the soft conditions obviously made it a little bit easier than everybody had hoped, but the setup was wonderful,” he said. “I just didn’t play how I’d hoped.”
After his round, Mickelson walked past the putting green and spotted runaway leader Rory McIlroy, who had yet to tee off for the final round.
“Play well,” said Mickelson, who then gave McIlroy’s caddie a thumbs-up.
“You could tell that Rory’s had this type of talent in him for some time now,” Mickelson said, “and to see him putting it together is pretty neat to see.”
RAFA ON RORY: Tennis’ top-ranked man, Rafael Nadal, enjoys playing golf in his free time, and he kept tabs on Rory McIlroy’s record-breaking performance at the U.S. Open.
Nadal said McIlroy owns “probably one of the nicest swings in the world, if not the nicest. … He deserves the title.”
The two met last year in New York, and Nadal has been pulling for McIlroy ever since.
“For sure, what he’s doing is really something unbelievable,” Nadal said Sunday at Wimbledon, where he will begin play Monday as the defending champion. “Seriously, I love watching Rory. … I admire him a lot.”
Referring to McIlroy’s collapse at the Masters, Nadal said: “He had a very tough fourth round (at) Augusta this year, and he deserves to win a major because, in my opinion, right now he’s playing at a different level than the rest.”
Nadal said he played “fantastic rounds of golf” last week during his time off at home on the Spanish island of Mallorca.
WRONG HOLE, RIGHT RECOVERY: Gary Woodland is from Kansas, but he must have felt as if he’d landed in Oz after he hooked his tee shot at par-5 ninth hole Sunday at the U.S. Open.
Woodland had to venture all the way to the edge of the No. 4 fairway to play his second shot. He lifted it over a bank trees, only to have the ball land on the edge of the right rough along the ninth fairway.
At least he was back on the right hole. His third shot landed precariously on the front of the green and started rolling toward the deep ravine before coming mercifully to a stop.
The pin was at the back of the green, but he putted within 6 feet and made it from there. All that work for a par.
Woodland received words of encouragement from fans as he walked to the 10th, including that most ultramodern of greetings: “I’ll tweet you later.” He then proceeded to make one of the best shots of the day at the tricky par-3 No. 10. He stuck his tee shot within 2 feet and made birdie on his way to a round of 68.