x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Near misses overshadow Glover glory

The 109th US Open will not be remembered for who won it. It will be remembered for all the miscreants who lost it.

Phil Mickelson finished second at the US Open for a record fifth time, disappointing himself and a legion of fans.
Phil Mickelson finished second at the US Open for a record fifth time, disappointing himself and a legion of fans.

FARMINGDALE, NEW YORK // The 109th US Open will not be remembered for who won it. It will be remembered for all the miscreants who lost it. Phil Mickelson finished second for a record fifth time after grabbing a share of the lead with an eagle on 13, only to give it back with a bogey two holes later.

Ricky Barnes - who set a 36-hole tournament record at 132 - went from seven-under when the day began, losing the lead, the tournament and six strokes to par, yet still tying Mickelson and David Duval for second at 278. Even Duval was a bigger story than the eventual winner, coming into the tournament after qualifying at a play-off as the 882nd ranked player in the world. He hit three birdies in a row on the back nine on Monday to put himself into a tie for the lead with two holes to go. But then he missed a five-foot putt for par on 17 as his shot caught the back lip of the hole and spun 180 degrees around before the ball, and with it his US Open hopes, was spit out.

Oh, by the way, someone named Lucas Glover won the competition. Despite shooting a three over par 73 on the final day, Glover held off the challenges of Mickelson, Duval, Barnes, Ross Fisher, Hunter Mahan and even Tiger Woods, who was the only golfer in the field to shoot three rounds under 70. Woods cost himself the tournament on the first rain-soaked day when he fell apart over the final four holes with a double bogey, bogey, par, bogey to finish four over - the same number of strokes he ended up behind Glover when all was said and done.

Plagued by the rains for much of the weekend that forced the final round to Monday for the first time without a play-off since 1983, the US Open trophy - which Mickelson desperately hoped to bring home to his ailing wife Amy - went to someone who seemed to understand what his victory represented to many. "I hope I don't downgrade it or anything with my name on there," said Glover, whose only other PGA Tour event victory came five years ago, and therefore offered no warning of what was to come this week.

"It's an honour. I'm excited and happy as can be to be on here." As happy as Glover was, Mickelson was equally downcast but his personal disappointment paled in comparison with that of the crowd. New York golf fans fell in love with the personable Mickelson when he finished second here at Bethpage Black in 2002. They also saw him blow his bid in 2006 at Winged Foot when he not only failed to shoot par on the final hole of the tournament - when that was all he needed to win - but double bogeyed his way out of a play-off.

Yet, when another disappointing finish here was behind him, Mickelson's concerns for his wife, to whom he would return later in the day with no idea yet when he might be back on PGA Tour, erased the pain this time. "Certainly I'm disappointed but now that it's over I've got more important things going on and?oh, well," Mickelson said with a sigh of resignation. "It's been kind of an emotional four or five days. It was a lot of ups and downs for me as far as a lot of birdies, a lot of bogeys, fighting to get into it, back out, back in it.

"I fought back with that birdie on nine, birdie on 12, eagle on 13 and put myself in a great position to close it out but, unfortunately, I didn't finish it off." Neither did Duval, 37, or Barnes, 28, the former once the No 1 player in the world and the latter someone who was supposed to become that after winning the US Amateur Championship in 2002 but never won again. Neither did Woods, who took himself out early, or England's Fisher, who took himself out late with three bogeys on the backside to finish three back.

That's the kind of US Open it was, a gloomy one for everyone but Glover, whose final 73 was his worst round of the tournament but surely felt like the best round of his life. rborges@thenational.ae