With the US Open title in sight once again, Mickelson tied for lead at Bethpage Black

By Tim Reynolds, AP
Monday, June 22, 2009

No shortage of final-round drama at US Open

FARMINGDALE, N.Y. — Lucas Glover picked the absolutely perfect time for his first birdie of the final round of the U.S. Open.

A major breakthrough might be his reward.

Glover rolled in an 8-footer on the par-4 16th hole Monday afternoon, taking a two-shot lead over David Duval and three others at Bethpage Black in the season’s second major championship.

Phil Mickelson, Ross Fisher and Ricky Barnes were also two shots back, each knowing that if this U.S. Open title will be theirs, they’ll likely need Glover — a winner of only one PGA Tour event — to err somewhere on the final two holes.

Indeed, the stage was set for plenty of drama before the finish at Bethpage Black.

Duval, whose last win was the 2001 British Open, survived an early triple-bogey and briefly ascended into a tie for the lead with consecutive birdies at Nos. 14, 15 and 16. But moments later, Glover rolled in his birdie — while Duval, nearly simultaneously, had a par putt at the par-3 17th hit the back of the hole and spin away.

Mickelson came to Bethpage Black charged to deliver the silver trophy to wife Amy, who’s about to begin breast cancer treatment and wants that chalice in her hospital room next month. Making up three shots in a two-hole span midway through the back side, Mickelson finally got to the top spot on the leaderboard.

Barnes led the tournament by six strokes at one point Sunday, getting to 11 under and becoming only the fourth player in U.S. Open history to venture double digits below par.

He couldn’t stay there, not even close.

Barnes — never a winner on the PGA Tour — went on to make 12 bogeys in a 24-hole stretch spanning the third and fourth rounds, blowing every bit of his lead and then some.

Defending champion Tiger Woods missed a birdie putt on the 72nd hole by the slimmest of margins, epitomizing his week. Each of his last three rounds were in the 60s, capped by a 1-under 69 on Monday and he finished at even par, still lamenting how he dropped four strokes over the final four holes of his rain-slogged opening round that ended Friday.

“I striped it this week. I hit it just like I did at Memorial, and unfortunately I didn’t make anything,” Woods said. “I hit so many putts … my good ones are not going in, and then my bad ones aren’t even close.”

After all the rain almost made the Black course seem benign with soft fairways and greens, Bethpage had its bite back Monday.

Birdies were rare. Wind was ripping in some areas. And mudballs — players’ biggest fear this rainy week — were increasingly common.

Duval was in the middle of the fairway on the par-4 7th, with mud coating many of the dimples on his ball. Sure enough, his second shot turned dead left, sailing 40 yards past the gallery line and nestling behind a tree — adding to a frustrating start for the former world’s No. 1, who also made triple-bogey at the par-3 third hole.

It was the harbinger of what awaited at Bethpage. Just about everyone was dropping shots.

Mickelson was a rare exception.

The U.S. Open is the tournament that has plagued Mickelson like no other. After making double-bogey on the final hole to lose at Winged Foot in 2006, he famously exclaimed, “I just can’t believe that I did that. I am such an idiot.”

He nearly won the tournament in 1999, falling by a shot to Payne Stewart. His wife dominated his every thought that week, too; Amy Mickelson was about to give birth to the couple’s first child.

“I’m one good round away,” Mickelson said Sunday night, handicapping his chances.

Woods jumped 26 spots up the leaderboard in the third round, starting tied for 15th, and kept the climb going in the final round. The world’s No. 1 made a putt in the dark for birdie at the 7th hole just as play was stopped Sunday night, hoping that would be the spark.

It almost was.

Woods sought a perfect storm Monday, the combination of him making a bunch of birdies and the leaders making a bunch of mistakes. Improbable as it seemed 24 hours earlier, it nearly came together, but he wound up driving away from Bethpage at noon Monday, knowing major win No. 15 would have to wait.

“I gave myself so many chances,” Woods said, “and made nothing.”

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