Ranking Mickelson’s 11 runner-up finishes in majors

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Phil Mickelson shot a bogey-free, final-round 65 at The Open Championship earlier this month only to be beaten by Henrik Stenson‘s 63 in an epic showdown. The tournament at Royal Troon will be remembered for the incredible duel rather than anything Mickelson could have done differently.

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  • But the outcome was the 11th time Lefty has finished runner-up in a major championship, surpassing the 10 second-place finishes by Arnold Palmer. Only Jack Nicklaus, who was second on 19 occasions (but also won 18 times), has more runner-up finishes in majors.

    The PGA Championship takes place this week at Baltusrol Golf Club, site of Mickelson’s 2005 PGA victory — one of five major titles for the World Golf Hall of Famer. Let’s look at how close he came to adding to that total, ranking his runner-up finishes from easiest to swallow to the most excruciating.

    11. Masters, 2015. Winner: Jordan Spieth by 4.

    Mickelson was never really in this one at Augusta National, as he trailed Spieth by six after the first round and by eight through 36 holes. He made up a little ground during the third round to stand five back going into the last day, but he would have needed a final-round 65 to tie on a day Spieth tied the tournament scoring record.

    10. U.S. Open, 2002. Winner: Tiger Woods by 3.

    This goes down as one of Mickelson’s six runner-up finishes at the U.S. Open, but it is hardly one that Phil laments most. He was two strokes better than Woods during the final round at Bethpage Black but still came up three shots short. Having been five back at the start of the day was tough enough, but overcoming Woods — who led the whole way — was just not feasible.

    9. U.S. Open, 2009. Winner: Lucas Glover by 2.

    An eagle at the 13th hole during a weather-delayed Monday finish at Bethpage Black had Mickelson tied for the lead and the New York Phil supporters buzzing. But Mickelson let a couple of putts get away from him over the closing holes, including a short birdie try at the 14th and a missed 3-footer at the 15th. His final-round 70 left him two back of Glover, who finished with a 73.

    8. The Open, 2011. Winner: Darren Clarke by 3.

    Mickelson was five strokes behind to start the final round at Royal St. George’s but shot a front-nine 30 that included an eagle at No. 7. He had 10 consecutive one-putts to start the round but then blew a short one at the 11th and was never the same, fading with a couple of bogeys when pars might have brought a different ending. He ended up tied with Dustin Johnson, who also had some shots to second-guess over the closing nine.

    7. PGA Championship, 2014. Winner: Rory McIlroy by 1.

    Mickelson was right there on the back nine at Valhalla when he let a drive get away from him on the 16th hole, leading to a bogey that proved too much to overcome. He almost holed an eagle pitch shot in near darkness on the par-5 18th to make it interesting, but McIlroy’s par on the last was good enough to relegate Mickelson to another close call.

    6. U.S. Open, 2004. Winner: Retief Goosen by 2.

    Mickelson charged into contention with three birdies in four holes on Shinnecock Hills’ brutal back nine to take a one-shot lead over Goosen with two holes to play. But Goosen, playing after Mickelson in the final twosome, finished with birdie, par, par. Mickelson, meanwhile, couldn’t avoid a bunker at the par-3 17th, blasted long and then three-putted for a double-bogey. He and Goosen were the only players to finish the tournament under par.

    5. U.S. Open, 1999. Winner: Payne Stewart by 1.

    This was Mickelson’s first runner-up in a major, a memorable one where Stewart holed a 15-footer for par on the 18th green of Pinehurst No. 2 to win his second U.S. Open just a few months before his tragic death. Mickelson, who was famously awaiting the birth of his first child (she would be born the next day), missed an 8-footer for birdie on the 17th hole, where Stewart made his putt to take a one-shot lead.

    4. PGA Championship, 2001. Winner: David Toms by 1.

    Much like at Royal Troon, Mickelson did just about all he could do at Atlanta Athletic Club. His score would have won every other PGA Championship contested in stroke play, but Toms did him one better, getting up and down with a wedge shot from the fairway at the last hole to hold off Mickelson.

    3. The Open, 2016. Winner: Henrik Stenson by 3.

    Mickelson played the round of his life on Sunday — a 65 with four birdies, an eagle and no bogeys — only to be outplayed. Stenson shot 63, tying the record for lowest closing round by a major champion, and made 10 birdies at Royal Troon. Mickelson finished 11 shots ahead of third-place J.B. Holmes. What more could he do?

    2. U.S. Open, 2006. Winner: Geoff Ogilvy by 1.

    Mickelson claims this is not the most excruciating of his close calls, mostly because he felt fortunate to even have a chance. He hit just two fairways during the final round at Winged Foot, and given that, it is remarkable he came to the 72nd hole with a one-shot lead. But it meant he was just one par away from victory, and naturally Mickelson missed the fairway well to the left, hitting a hospitality tent. But that’s where his real mistake occurred. Mickelson could have punched the ball around a tree and down the fairway, setting up an up-and-down par to win or a bogey to force a playoff. Instead he went for glory and got burned, leading to his infamous double-bogey and quote: “I’m such an idiot.”

    1. U.S. Open, 2013. Winner: Justin Rose by 2.

    This is the one Mickelson calls the hardest to take. He led at Merion after each of the first three rounds and seemed poised to finally get his first U.S. Open, especially after holing a shot for eagle on No. 10. But he also made a couple of costly mistakes, including double-bogeys at the third and fifth holes. He missed the 15th green with a wedge, leading to another bogey. Mickelson bogeyed No. 18 when he was going all out for a birdie, but the tournament was lost prior to then.

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