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Unable to hit a fairway since, it seemed, the Mesozoic Era, Mickelson nevertheless used driver off the tee. Okay, maybe he felt his four-wood was no more dependable than his driver. Whatever. It’s what came next that made Mickelson vaudevillian and VandeVeldian. Faced with a choice between sensibility and sensation, he chose to try sensation — but instead was left insensate. Needing only bogey for a tie, he played as if he needed birdie for even the barest chance of triumph. What he got, of course, was double-bogey, and defeat. He tried to dance with the bombshell, as he had tried so often before in his career, before he supposedly got smart — and, as had so often happened before, he was left bereft.
Mickelson could have tried an easy pitch back to the fairway, then used one of his famously acclaimed wedge shots to try to get near enough to make a putt for par. Make the putt, he’s the national champion. Miss it, and he still is in a playoff.
What should have made that safe choice so easy for him is that he had fallen victim to others using it against him not once, but twice. It was in the 1999 U.S. Open that Payne Stewart led Mickelson by one on the final hole. When Stewart missed the fairway, he didn’t try to be a hero. He pitched out to the fairway, hit his short iron to the green, and sank the 20 footer for par and victory as Phil stood on the same green watching.
At the 2001 PGA, the story was much the same. Competitor David Toms, one stroke up on Mickelson, missed the fairway on the 72nd hole. Rather than going for the green, he laid up. Then came the wedge to 12 feet, and the par putt for victory. Safe. Smart. Effective. Three words that have yet to apply to Mickelson’s whole U.S. Open career.
Anybody can fail to pull off a good swing at the right time. That’s what Monty had done from the fairway. That’s a physical error, but no sin. The cardinal sin is what Phil did by going for broke, what Monty did by bull-rushing his first putt, and to an extent what Furyk did by ignoring his routine. The cardinal sin is to start thinking abnormally. The cardinal sin is brain-lock. And the result is horribly painful even to watch.p>—————— br> Notes : Americans looking for a silver lining from Winged Foot won’t find one. Of the top 30 finishers, only 10 were American. Of those, only two — Sean O’Hair and Aaron Oberholser — are less than 32 years old. br> —————— /p>
Quin Hillyer is executive editor of The American Spectator. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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