2020 Masters Choose Your Own Adventure, Tiger Woods vs. Phil Mickelson: Lefty Falters
Harry How/Getty Images for The Match
Mickelson outsmarts himself.
Anyone who wants to make the argument that Mickelson isn’t one of the greatest players of all-time should be apprised of this statistic: Only five players in history have claimed golf’s career grand slam. He’s captured three of the four legs; the only one he hasn’t won is, famously, the U.S. Open, where he’s been runner-up a record six times.
Of those second-place finishes, you can point to a few of them – Pinehurst in 1999; Winged Foot in 2006 – as legitimate heartbreakers, but perhaps none of ‘em still hurt as much as Merion in 2013.
Carrying five wedges that week, Mickelson stood on the tee box at the minuscule 121-yard par-3 13th hole and grabbed one of the five – his pitching wedge. He swung at the ball and it flew through the air, over the green and into the rough, with a tough lie to get up and down. He would make bogey there and again on 15, when he took gap wedge and left it short.
In the end, he lost by two strokes.
Mickelson has never made excuses for those two shots, but you have to wonder whether he pulled the wrong club in the heat of the moment. Maybe he was confused. Maybe he was mentally exhausted from a full week of trying to choose between all of ‘em. Whatever the case, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that he outsmarted himself on those par-3s down the stretch.
That’s all you can think about as you watch history repeat itself today.
On the 12th hole, Mickelson grabs one of those six wedges, takes a big swing and comes up well short, splashing down in Rae’s Creek. That’s a bogey. On 16, he chooses pitching wedge from 170 yards downwind, but flies the green. That’s another bogey.
In the end, he winds up losing by two strokes in his bid for another Masters victory. You can’t help but think that the strategy which worked so well throughout the week might’ve also led to his greatest miscalculation.