Phil Mickelson flamed out of the U.S. Open on Friday and afterward could not say if it is the last time he would appear at the historic tournament.
Mickelson, who turned 50 this year and has already played his first Champions Tour event, was better during Friday's second round at Winged Foot GolfClub in Mamaroneck, N.Y., but his 4-over 74 left him at 13 over for the tournament, coming nowhere near the cut line.
Afterward, Mickelson was asked if he plans on ever playing in a U.S. Open again.
"I don't know," the typically engaging player said during a post-round news conference during which his sour mood showed in several short answers.
Next year's U.S. Open is near Mickelson's hometown of San Diego at Torrey Pines Golf Club. But earning his way into the event figures to be the issue.
There was some conjecture that the USGA would hand Mickelson an exemption this year when it appeared he wouldn't qualify because he was not in the top 60 in the world. It turned out he did qualify when the qualifying was expanded to the top 70 after the COVID-19 pandemic eliminated local and sectional qualifying.
Mickelson said he wouldn't have accepted the USGA's free pass, anyway.
"I don't want a special exemption," he said earlier this year. "I think I'll get in the tournament. If I get in, I deserve to be there. If I don't, I don't. I don't want a sympathy spot. If I am good enough to make it and qualify, then I need to earn my spot there."
Thursday's first round started out positive enough when Mickelson birdied his first two holes. It brought to light one bettor's $45,000 wager on Mickelson and how the potential $3.3 million payout would be talked about all weekend.
But the feel-good story on both ends ended abruptly when Mickelson bogeyed Nos. 3, 4 and 5, and he was never under par again.
"I find that I've been playing very well at home, and I get out here where the penalty for a mis-hit is severe, and I find myself getting a little tight and a little steery, and playing some of my worst golf," Mickelson said Friday. "And that's something I've got to work on and fix. When I go back home, I don't have the stress and I seem to play just fine, but I've got to be able to bring it out here under these conditions."
Not only is Winged Foot home to what could be Mickelson's final U.S. Open, it was also home to his 2006 meltdown when he led the U.S. Open by two shots with three to play. Needing a par at 18, he hit a hospitality tent with his drive, clipped a tree with his second shot and ultimately found a bunker. He finished with a double-bogey.
In the ensuing years he was able to make light of the fail, but he was not in a joking mood Friday.
"I enjoyed the week and I enjoyed the challenge that this golf course provides," Mickelson said. "I think it's always one of the hardest tests that we play but one of the most fun challenges because of the, gosh, the character of the course all throughout, from shot-making to putting and short game.
"I think it's a terrific place to play golf and I'm appreciative of the opportunity to have been able compete here and I'm disappointed I didn't play better."
--Field Level Media