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An Open letter to Lefty

June 20, 2006|by TIM KOELBLE

Dear Phil,

I never have been a staunch fan of yours, but I was very happy for you when you won your first major golf tournament.

Since that April in 2005 when you won the Masters, you seem to have matured on the golf course with your decision-making, and that's most likely what helped you win two more majors. No doubt, you had a tremendous amount of confidence heading into the U.S. Open.

By the time Sunday rolled around and only the bona fide challengers were still standing, there were only two American golfers with a chance to win the Open - yourself and Jim Furyk - after Steve Stricker fell by the wayside.

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Even the fact that I love the Irish and Scottish players was not enough for me to pull for Colin Montgomerie and Padraig Harrington over an American player to win our Open.

For all the time you spent in the weeks of preparation with your visits to Winged Foot, I really don't know what went through your head on Sunday. You had a balky driver, yet continued to use it, forcing yourself to act like no other Houdini has ever before.

I'm sure you knew it was imperative to be in the fairways at Winged Foot.

When you stepped to the tee box on 18, we could read your lips and know that you knew what position Montgomerie was in when he finished the final hole - he, too, making a miserable club selection that led to his ouster.

You still had a one-shot lead, and instead of playing it safe with a 3-wood, you sliced one off a hospitality tent that left you in the woods some 210 yards away. Right there, you should have immediately put into your mind, 'bogey.' Play to get a bogey and a tie with Geoff Ogilvy.

No, you have to be crafty and try to pull one out of you know where.

Boom.

Crash.

Tilt.

Tree time baby, tree time!

I just can't understand why you didn't try to advance the ball 50 to 60 yards, set yourself up with an iron that you can get to the pin and go from there.

Nope, you end up with a double bogey and the rest is history. That's called the "Mickelson Malfunction."

We all know you dearly wanted to win the Open, but wouldn't you, at that time, have had a better chance of settling for a bogey, a tie and an 18-hole playoff?

And you can pass this thought along to your caddie, Jim Mackay.

Jim, if I were Mickelson's caddie, I would not have let him take that shot whatsoever. You are creditable enough to have talked him into a 3-wood off the tee and to punch out that second shot.

Phil, I don't know what your frame of mind will be and how it will play into your future success, but I'm sure it will take some time to digest the choices you made.

Unfortunately for you, you're going to hear this line for a long, long time: "You lost the U.S. Open in 2006, Geoff Ogilvy did not win it."




Tim Koelble is a staff writer for The Morning Herald. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2311, or by e-mail at koelble@herald-mail.com.

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