Career grand slam is slipping out of ageing Phil Mickelson's grasp

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Waking up at his home in Arizona this morning, Phil Mickelson must be wondering whether he is destined never to lift the one title he has always craved above all others.

With a T52 finish at Pebble Beach on Sunday, it proved to be another year without a US Open crown for ‘Lefty’. A disappointing result for a man many thought would threaten Brooks Koepka and Co at the top of the leaderboard.

His victory at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am back in February – his fifth at the venue – had fans believing this could be the perfect course for Mickelson to become just the sixth player in history to complete the career grand slam.

But he failed to fire for much of the weekend and one wonders whether it was his last best chance to complete the elusive set of majors.

When he came out for his third round on Saturday, he was two-under par and looking confident with his iron play. But instead of continuing his calm and confident approach, he capitulated on the back nine, firing a disastrous five-over, including a triple bogey at the par-5 18th.

For his 49th birthday on the final day, the five-time major winner was welcomed with a loud chorus of ‘Happy Birthday’, but could only manage a one-over 72 to finish seventeen shots behind eventual winner Gary Woodland on four-over par.

A tie for 52nd was hardly a dream birthday present for the six-time runner-up, but the American fans still clapped him off like he’d won the tournament.

It was the 29th time that Mickelson walked away without the US Open trophy on Sunday. He’s already older than any major winner and four years older than any other US Open champion – Hale Irwin being the oldest winner at 45 in 1990.

If he couldn’t be in the hunt on Pebble, a course where he has shone over the years, it’s hard to imagine he will be better in future championships.

Mickelson himself knows as well as anyone that time is running out. But it’s tough to admit defeat, especially for someone who is always going to show confidence and keep trying instead of running away and giving up.

When thinking back to 2006 at Winged Foot, Mickelson must wince in his rocking chair when he remembers how close he could have been. Needing only a par on the 18th to secure victory, he struck a reckless tee shot and ended up firing a six to lose by one shot.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t deny that Mickelson’s the people’s champion at every tournament. The fans come out in force to see him. They sing, they chant, they play every hole with him. If he birdies, they cheer. If he bogeys, they wince in pain.

Everyone wants to see him win.

And after nearly three decades attempting to capture the US Open title, that last remaining chance is wilting away like leaves blowing away in the Autumn wind, especially with the average age of a player winning a major now 32-years-old.

The next courses on the US Open schedule will be Winged Foot, Brookline and Pinehurst – each beautiful, but longer and tougher than Pebble Beach.

Some say Winged Foot might be Mickelson’s last big opportunity to tread where very few have done before, and be considered one of the great golfers of all time. He is already, but Winged Foot, starting two days after his 50th birthday, will be the next last best chance to win that elusive career grand slam.

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Tiger Woods looking to study Portrush in preparation for Open

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Tiger Woods admits he will have plenty of homework to do ahead of the Open Championship at Royal Portrush.

Woods saved his best until last with a final round of 69 in the US Open at Pebble Beach, with the Masters champion recovering from four bogeys in the first six holes with six birdies in the remaining 12.

The 43-year-old is currently not scheduled to compete again until the final major of the season next month and has never played the course which returns to the Open rota for the first time since 1951.

“I’ve only played (Royal) County Down, I’ve never been up to Portrush and I’m looking forward to getting up there and taking a look at the golf course and trying to figure it out,” Woods said after finishing in a tie for 21st.

“I hope that my practice rounds are such that we get different winds, especially on a golf course that I’ve never played, to get a different feel how it could play for the week.

“And I’ll definitely have to do my homework once I get there.”

Woods did not play between his victory at Augusta National and the US PGA Championship at Bethpage, where he missed the halfway cut and trailed playing partner Brooks Koepka by 17 shots after 36 holes.

However, when asked if he would play between now and the Open, the former world number one added: “I’ll play at home, yeah.

“I know that Florida will not be the same temperature as Northern Ireland. I’m not going to be practising with any sweaters at home, but it will be nice to get to Portrush and get with it again.”

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Winners and losers from the US Open as Gary Woodland and Brooks Koepka shine

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Gary Woodland claimed a remarkable first major title with a commanding victory at Pebble Beach on Sunday.

The American carded a closing 69 to finish three shots clear of Brooks Koepka to claim victory at the US Open, the year’s third major.

Here, we look at the winners and losers from California.

GARY WOODLAND
Finished: Winner

The 35-year-old from Kansas withstood the stubborn challenge of Kopeka to seal a maiden major triumph.

He didn’t panic when Koepka started to fire early on Sunday, and he simply answered any doubts about his resilience and consistency, firing birdies on two of the first three holes.

While some drives began to tail away from the intended target on the 12th and 13th, he used his short game to push himself back into formidable positions, most notably on the 14th and 17th.

His overall performance was outstanding, and his birdie on the 18th to get to 13-under and beat Tiger Woods’ commanding 2000 score by one shot was top class.

BROOKS KOEPKA
Finished: Runner-up

While the Florida man failed to win his third successive US Open title, he proved his brilliance all weekend, staying in the hunt for large spells before producing an iron-like performance on the final day.

Despite applying the pressure on Woodland, his final round 69, which included five birdies and two bogeys, wasn’t enough.

Winning three US Open titles would have been one of the great stories in golf, but he didn’t quite do it.

However, two wins and two runner-up finishes in his last four major events is spectacular all the same.

JON RAHM
Finished: T3

The likes of Xander Schauffele and Chez Reavie were also in contention for this pick, but Rahm shades it.

The Spaniard glided around the course with aplomb, shooting rounds of 69-70-70-68 to finish on seven-under par in a tie for third place and for his best finish at a major yet.

Building on his stunning 2018 campaign, the only way is up for the Barrika native, with crisp driving and consistent putting at the heart of what is an exciting and ferocious game plan.

It’s only a matter of time before Rahm clinches a first major.

LOSERS

JUSTIN ROSE
Finished: T3

There’s no doubt Rose had a solid weekend. It was his best finish at the US Open since winning in 2013, but the downside is that he had chances to put Woodland under pressure and didn’t deliver.

One shot back on Sunday, the Englishman couldn’t get his putter firing and struggled to a three-over 75, six strokes behind Woodland in a tie for third.

He suffered back-to-back bogeys on the 12th and 13th, whereas one other bogey on the 15th added salt to his wounds and punctured his overall ability to contend.

Back to the drawing board it will be and, with a T2 finish at last year’s Open Championship, Rose will be hoping for an improved display when he arrives at Royal Portrush for the final major of the year next month.

TIGER WOODS
Finished: T21

The 15-time major winner fired 15 birdies over the four rounds, just two less than eventual winner Woodland, but the significant problem in his performance was that he fired 11 bogeys and one double.

In previous events, his two-under 282 would have been enough to contend at the top of the leadeboard (would have won in 2018 and been enough for second in 2016). But, at Pebble, low scores were more frequent.

The 43-year-old has the vast array of skills to stay in the mix on any given week, but bad moments curtailed his chance at a fourth US Open title.

RORY MCILROY
Finished: T9

The Northern Irishman’s tilt at a fifth major wilted away by the third tee on Sunday.

Five shots off Woodland entering the final round, McIlroy knew a fast start was crucial. However, a bogey on the second left him low on confidence, perhaps knowing his quest for a second US Open title would have to wait for another year.

He did manage three birides on the front nine, but a double and two other bogeys left him well out of contention, and he finished eight shots back from Woodland on five-under par.

While his T9 finish isn’t bad by any means, inconsistencies kept McIlroy from being a menace to the likes of Woodland and Koepka.

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