|The 145th Open Championship|
|Venue: Royal Troon, Ayrshire, Scotland Dates: 14-17 July|
|Coverage: Highlights on BBC TV and online, listen live on BBC Radio 5 live and follow live text on the BBC Sport website. Click here for full details|
Before anybody had even asked him a question Phil Mickelson said that he “felt like crying” having missed out, by a millimetre, on holing a putt that would have given him a history-making round of 62 – the first ever in major championship golf.
Many have tried and all have failed. Few have failed by such a miniscule distance as Mickelson. Everybody thought that putt on Troon’s 18th green was in. Everybody thought they were in on an ‘I was there’ moment. Mickelson thought he had done what the golfing immortals could never do.
Sixty-two. The magic – and still elusive – number.
He was smiling but he was hurting. Four birdies on the front nine, four on the back nine and a cigarette paper away from a fifth – and a record that would surely have lasted the ages.
“It’s obvious why nobody has ever shot 62 in a major,” he said. “There’s a curse, because that ball should have been in. If there wasn’t a curse that ball would have been in and I would have had a 62. I didn’t believe (in the golf Gods) but I do now.
“That putt on 18 was a chance to do something historical. I knew it and with a foot to go I thought I had done it. I saw that ball rolling right in the centre. I went to go get it. I had that surge of adrenaline that I had just shot 62 and then I had the heartbreak that I didn’t. It was ‘Wow, that stings’. This ball was hunting right in the centre of the hole and didn’t go. Unfortunately the curse hit me hard.”
The 63 Club
The curse? Is there something in that? Mickelson would not be alone in thinking it because he is not alone in walking off the 18th green of a major championship having missed his chance to rewrite the history books.
Mickelson joined the group of golfers who shot the lights out in major championships in signing for a 63, but trooped off the 18th hole feeling that some kind of other worldly force was working against them.
We go back to 1977 when Mark Hayes missed a six-footer for 62 at the Open at Turnberry. Onwards to 1980 and Jack Nicklaus missing a three-footer for 62 in the first round of the US Open at Baltusrol, later saying that he “totally choked.” When did Nicklaus ever choke?
In 1984, Gary Player had 12ft for a 62 at the USPGA at Shoal Creek. He missed. In 1986, Nick Price had 30ft for birdie, and 62, at Augusta, his ball circling the hole and staying above ground. Later, Price was to say that he felt like Augusta’s co-founder Bobby Jones’ hand “came up and popped it out.”
The same year of 1986, at Turnberry, Greg Norman’s three putts from shy of 30ft denied him history. Norman had three bogeys on his card and a whole pile of regret about an opportunity lost.
Tiger Woods has known this angst, too. In the 2007 USPGA he lipped-out for 62, his sense of injustice so cruel that he said that his score had to go down as a 62 and a half.
Most recently, in 2013, Jason Dufner had a shot at it. He had 10ft for birdie on 18 at the USPGA at Oak Hill and left it short. Dufner walked off the green with a demeanour of a man in shock.
Isao Aoki, Vijay Singh, Rory McIlroy – one generation to the next, all united by the look they had at the holy grail only for it to be snatched away from them.
Twenty-eight rounds of 63 have been recorded in major golf, beginning with Johnny Miller at the US Open at Oakmont in 1973. That number doesn’t acknowledge the players who have had a little glimpse of the 62 nirvana and ended up not even making 63.
The forgotten ones.
Jordan Spieth is among this group. At Augusta last year, he was eight-under after 14 holes when standing on the tee of the par-five 15th – a birdie hole, the easiest on the golf course. He took six and finished on 64.
People forget what an opportunity he had. Spieth has not forgotten, though. You can be sure of that.
’62 would have been something special’
Mickelson will not forget this in a hurry either. The fact that he is leading the Open by three shots brought him minimal consolation.
“The putt was outside the hole by a few inches, breaking left in the middle of the putt and then straight the last bit. Well, it was supposed to be straight the last bit.
“This one is going to stay with me for a while. Lots of guys have shot 63 but nobody has shot 62. That would have been something special.”
The history man – almost.
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