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The GrunkleGuru

Grunkle is a slang term for the thick rough on a golf course that I have been using for many years. Given my penchant for inaccurate tee balls, I have become a bit of a guru out of the thick stuff, hence the name. This is a site for my random thoughts about sports (espeically golf) and life in general. While nothing special, it will hopefully offer a break from the daily drudgery for both you and me.

June 22, 2006

U.S. Open 2006 - The Real Phil Mickelson

Yeah, I know, I’ve been gone for a while. No particular reason why the hiatus was so long, but it just seemed like I always had something better to do with my time. However, the events of this past U.S. Open have brought me back.

There were so many stories from this recent U.S. Open, that each one could be an article unto itself. We had Tiger coming back after the loss of his father and subsequently missing the cut. We also had Duval continuing his resurgence, and if he makes just one more putt has an exemption into next years Open (via a top-13 finish). Then there was the golf course itself. Winged Foot proved once again that it is a great course on which to test the best golfers in the world. And of course, you had the unexpected champion in Geoff Ogilvy, who definitely has the game and demeanor to be around for a long time to come. But the biggest story, and the one that seems to have some long-term staying power (at least until the British Open) is the collapse of Phil Mickelson.

Even with all the stories surrounding Tiger and his return to golf, Mickelson was the story. Going for his third consecutive major, and the proverbial Mickelslam, Phil was definitely one of the favorites going into this U.S. Open, and for obvious reasons. He was playing great golf, had proven he could manage his game, and he has been embraced like no other golfer by the New York crowds. From Bethpage in ’02, to Shinnecock in ’04, and now Winged Foot in ’06, New York golf fans love Phil, and he returns the love. After all, Phil was famous, not only for his incredible skill, but also for his gambler mentality, and the fans love him for it. That being said, it was the very thing that draws people to Phil that cost him this U.S. Open.

Pundits and former players are calling it a massive choke job, but I say that this is not the case, but rather another example of the real Phil coming out to play. For 71 holes he had managed his game as best as he ever has. His driver was not reliable in the least bit, but he was doing all the right things to keep giving himself a chance to win the Open. He stood on the 18th tee Sunday afternoon needing par to win, and bogey for a playoff. I don’t even question is choice to hit driver from the tee. If he was playing for bogey and a playoff, then 4-wood would be the right choice, but he stood on that tee and by taking driver said to the entire golf world that he was going to win this event here and now. However, by not punching out to the fairway, he displayed the aggressive nature of his game. I truly think that a punch-out guarantees a bogey, but a perfectly executed recovery leads to a victory.

I’ve always been a fan of Phil and his aggressive style of play. I still remember an article in one of the publications when I was a teen-ager when Phil told you how to play the impossible shot. From the 3-iron fade under the trees, to the shot you actually skip over the pond, to the flop shot you actually hit over your head onto the green, which was my favorite because I could execute it and take money off members of the club I worked at.

That was the Phil we all knew and loved, and it was the Phil that could never win a major. Like I said, the typical major winner on any given week manages his game the best. He typically does not win because of spectacular shots, or amazing recoveries. He wins because he keeps it in the short stuff, and doesn’t make the big number. In fact, it can be said that Phil was the first golfer to employ the now popular bomb and gouge style where you hit it as far as you can and then wedge it onto the green. It works week-in and week out at the regular events, but fails miserably at the majors.

So no, Phil did not choke, he simply got to a point where he had a chance to win the most important event in his opinion, in front of a crowd that adores him, and he simply reverted back to his old ways. Phil will have another chance to win the U.S. Open, and in fact might have many more chances (look out Torrey Pines in ’08) because of how talented he is. Whether he wins or not will entirely depend on his ability to control his ‘go for broke’ mentality for 72 holes, not 71.


At 10:49 PM, Blogger Patrick Eakes said...

I agree with you that it was not a choke, but rather the real Phil coming out. However, everything I have read said that Phil believed he had a two shot cushion on the 18th tee. If that is correct, driver was the wrong play.

I still count his 1990 US Am as a major. It certainly was considered one at the time.

At 9:53 AM, Blogger The Grunkle Guru said...


Thanks for the comment. I would agree with you regarding the U.S. Amatuer as a major. It is a national championship that garners invitations to others. However, would you consider someone such as Billy Mayfair a major champion?

He won the U.S. Am, and has put together a solid living on tour, but I do think that you need to win a professional major to help 'validate' an amatuer one.

At 1:20 AM, Blogger Patrick Eakes said...

I do consider Billy Mayfair a major champion, along the lines of a Jeff Sluman. Both had the one big win among not too many others.

I agree with you, though, that a second major goes a long way toward validating a career. As good a career as Davis Love has had, he is considered a bit of an underachiever with just one major.

I was with Billy Mayfair when he was eliminated in his US Amateur defense. My man had just won his match, and we were in the shuttle van together. Billy was about as classy as could be even on a very disappointing day.

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At 5:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Phil deserves all the credit hes getting for being a spectacular player. Go Phil.


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