By Frank Pingue
(Reuters) - Phil Mickelson, who has endured more U.S. Open heartbreak than any other player in history, will try to put all that behind him this week when he tees off at Winged Foot, the site of his infamous final-hole collapse in 2006.
Mickelson, a runner-up at the U.S. Open a record six times, was in danger of missing the tournament in Mamaroneck, New York, but made it into the field as the COVID-19 outbreak led to a change in the exemption categories.
"Obviously, I have a lot of work to do and some redemption at Winged Foot, but it's a great golf course and I'm looking forward to the challenge," Mickelson said last month after winning his debut on the PGA Tour's over-50 circuit.
While far from a tournament favourite, Mickelson still has the ability to dial it up on occasion and the chance to complete the rare grand slam of the four majors with a win this week will certainly have the left-hander raring to go.
Mickelson's most recent U.S. Open runner-up finish came in 2013 but his most heart-breaking one came 14 years ago at Winged Foot where he led by one shot on the 72nd before a nightmare finish.
Mickelson, who hit just two fairways all day, pushed his tee shot at the last well left on to the roof of a hospitality tent and then struck a tree with his second shot before running up a double-bogey six to finish one shot behind Geoff Ogilvy.
NBC Sports golf broadcast team member Roger Maltbie, who was inside the ropes for Mickelson's memorable 72nd hole, called the American's decision to hit driver on the final hole among the worst he has seen.
"As things are going faster, as all these things are happening, you tend to make decisions that can be devastating, and that's really what happened to Phil," Maltbie said on a U.S. Open preview conference call.
"It was sad to see because this guy deserves to have a U.S. Open title."
For his part, Mickelson recently poked fun at his collapse in a advertisement where entrants can win a free driver if the Callaway staff member they select wins the 2020 U.S. Open.
"Come on, we all know who it's going to be," Mickelson says at the end of the ad.
"When have I ever let you down at Winged Foot?"
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Toby Davis)