New York crowds have always loved Phil Mickelson. They were loud and boisterous as they rooted him on to catch Tiger at Bethpage in the ‘02 US Open, and their hearts collectively sank when he hit his tee shot off the hospitality tent on the 72nd hole at Winged Foot in the ’06 edition. That double-bogey has since been known as a Mickelson choke-job, but was it really? The night before, he closed out the back-9 with a 33 on one of the toughest courses in Open history. And when he stood on that 18th tee on Sunday, it was a miracle he even held a one-shot lead. He had hit just 2 fairways the entire round. 2, at the US Open. Where hitting fairways is a premium. Playing partner Kenneth Ferrie said it was one of the greatest rounds he ever witnessed. Watching Phil slash his way around Winged Foot and scramble his way to the lead was “superhuman.” This all took place amidst the height of Phil-mania. Tiger missed the cut and was still dealing with the recent loss of his father, and Mickelson was coming off his 2nd career Masters title 2 months before. Not to mention he won the PGA the year prior. So this was obviously his time, and he knew it and prepared like it was. He asked Roger Cleveland to design him a 64° wedge with a sole grind and bounce exclusively for the course. And it saved him numerous times throughout the week.
History will tell us that Phil being Phil cost him this US Open, the one major that eludes him to this day of completing the career grand slam. But Phil being Phil is what gave him that one-shot lead on the 72nd tee on Sunday. His swing coach at the time, Rick Smith, remembers how poorly he hit it during his warm-up before Sunday’s final round. In fact, he was hitting it so bad that he didn’t give himself enough time to putt before his tee time. May I remind you he hit 2 fairways? A trademark Phil “choke-job” it wasn’t. Just another bad drive at the worst possible moment. Time heals all wounds, and since then Lefty has won a 3rd green jacket and a British Open. He recently poked a little fun at himself when he heard someone laid 45k on him to win at 75-1 odds. That would pay a little over $3 million. He said he hopes for the both of them that he has a 3-shot lead on the 18th tee on Sunday. By the way, I think it is only fair to mention that Colin Montogomerie also choked another US Open title away this day, and Geoff Ogilvy played boring golf by hitting fairways and greens to snatch the title. Boring golf sometimes wins exciting championships…
Inside the numbers: Winged Foot
Architect: A.W. Tillinghast 1923
Location: Mamaroneck, NY
Par 72 for members, par 70 for championship
Hole 9 will be converted to a par 4 and at 514 yards will be one of the longest par 4’s in major championship history. The par-5 12th will be the 6th longest hole in major championship history at 640 yards.
Geoff Ogilvy’s winning score of +5 in 2006 and Hale Irwin’s +7 in 1974 are 2 of the highest winning scores in the golf’s modern era.
Other US Open winners at Winged Foot: Bobby Jones (1929), Billy Casper (1959), Fuzzy Zoeller (1984)
Davis Love III captures his only major here at the 1997 PGA Championship with a winning score of -11. But the rough was down and the greens were soft due to rainy conditions. The famous winning putt on 18 was witnessed by a rainbow that has been said to be Davis’ late father, who was a PGA Club Pro, watching his son’s emotional victory.
Winged Foot has an initiation fee of $200,000 and yearly dues of 10,000
In 2006, there were only 12 rounds under par for the entire week. None lower than 68 (-2).
The clubs consists of 36 holes, the East and West course.
Fantasy Picks No need to beat a dead horse, Winged Foot is difficult. I am going to need to pick some ice cold bulldogs this week. Bulldogs that hit fairways, hit greens, and keep cool after a bogey. Winner Dustin Johnson This is as obvious a pick since Tiger in the early 2000’s. #1 ranked player in the world and also the hottest. Will contend Daniel Berger Fits the tough as nails moniker and has had an awesome 2020. Sleeper Paul Casey Ball striker extraordinaire, and when his putter is hot, he performs like a top-10 player.
Enjoy the game and each other,
Written by Seth Zipay – Head Golf Professional
Design & Published by Craig Michael