U.S. Open: Lefty goes for history

By Gethin Coolbaugh, The Sports Xchange  |  June 16, 2016 at 12:27 AM
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Phil Mickleson is desperately hoping the 26th time will be the charm.

Time is winding down on the beloved and soon-to-be 46-year-old's career entering the 116th U.S. Open this weekend at notoriously challenging Oakmont Country Club course in Oakmont, Pa.

Mickleson's is a career that includes five major championship victories, but a win at the U.S. Open has proven to be evasive.

"I think about it all the time," Mickleson said Wednesday before participating in his 26th career U.S. Open. "This is the tournament I want to win the most to complete the four majors. There's no question."

Mickelson, who turns 46 on Thursday, has a record six runner-up finishes at the United States Golf Association-sanctioned event and will be making his third bid to complete the Career Grand Slam.

In 2013, Mickelson took a one stroke lead into the final round at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa. He opened with double bogeys on two of his first five holes and bogeyed three of his final six to finish tied for second.

His last victory came in the 2013 Open Championship at Muirfield in Scotland.

In 63 tournaments since, Mickleson hasn't placed higher than second -- including last week's runner-up finish at the FedEx St. Jude Classic in Memphis, Tenn.

At last year's U.S. Open at Chambers Bay in University Place, Wash., which was won by Jordan Spieth, Mickleson made the cut after opening with a 1-under-par 69, but closed 74-77-73 to finish tied for 64th.

"I have to put that out of my head and try to execute and be patient and not think about results," Mickleson said of his winless U.S. Open tenure. "You start thinking about results, you'll never play your best golf."

--It had been a long time since Angel Cabrera returned to the site of his first major championship.

Nine years ago, the Argentine claimed a historic one-stroke victory over Jim Furyk and Tiger Woods in the 2007 U.S. Open at Oakmont, making him the first South American in history to win the tournament.

"It's been very emotional this week with all the memories from back in '07," Cabrera said Wednesday. "So I've been waiting several years to actually be back here at this moment, to be back and play Oakmont again. Certainly, very emotional to be back."

Cabrera, 46, went on to win only twice more on tour, in the 2007 Masters and the Greenbrier Classic in 2014.

Since his last victory, Cabrera hasn't placed higher than a tie for 12th in a PGA Tour event.

"I just play better at majors than regular tournaments," Cabrera said. "There's something about the majors that gets a lot of focus from me, a lot of the best of me, and that's been basically the case for all of my golfing career."

Cabrera, ranked No. 389 in the world, is paired with former U.S. Open champions Ernie Els of South Africa and Furyk in the first two rounds. Els won in 1997 and Furyk won in 2003.

--Dustin Johnson says he's looking forward to playing at Oakmont, despite its reputation as one of the toughest courses in the country.

"I really like the golf course," Johnson said Wednesday. "I enjoy playing it. It's just tough, but I like hard golf courses. I think they suit my game very well."

The world's sixth-ranked golfer played a round last Tuesday and doesn't plan to change any clubs in his bag to account for the course's length.

While he hasn't played the course in competition, Johnson knows he'll have to keep his composure if he wants to win his first career major.

"You're definitely going to have to be patient out here," he said. "Par is a good score on any hole.

--Few can say they've attended every U.S. Open ever played at Oakmont Country Club. In fact, Bob McElhose is the only one.

The 100-year-old Oakmont, Pa., resident is the only known person who has been on hand for all eight U.S. Opens hosted by Oakmont -- in 1927, 1935, 1953, 1962, 1973, 1983, 1994 and most recently in 2007.

"Well, I've been around a long time, and I was around this country club a lot," McElhose said in an interview with the USGA. "It's not an easy course. You just love to play it."

McElhose's first U.S. Open saw Tommy Armour claim his first of three major championships. He was also present for Johnny Miller's course-record 63 in the final round to win in 1973.

"I can say I've seen all Opens here, and enjoyed every one," McElhose said. "I'm looking forward to this golf course being played.

Maybe I'll play one more (round) before I go. I look forward to it."

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