June 18, 2016
Do the math, Phil Mickelson advised. With so many players still to complete their second round and the U.S. Open conditions getting tougher by the hour on Saturday, the five-time major winner said he’d be “surprised” to not make the cut at 7 over par.
When second-round play was complete at Oakmont Country Club, the cut came at 6 over, and Mickelson was headed home, sitting out the final two rounds for only the third time in 26 U.S. Open appearances. He would not get a chance to capture his first national championship to complete the career Grand Slam.
At 46, he’s running out of opportunities.
Mickelson, who missed the cut in 2007 at Oakmont while struggling with a wrist injury, made only three birdies in 36 holes in shooting 74-73. Going into the tournament, he was No. 3 on the PGA Tour this season in strokes gained putting, but he needed 30 for the first round and 31 for the second.
“I actually thought I played really well, except I let four or five par putts kind of slide,” Mickelson said. “… I didn’t have that many birdie opportunities. My irons — they don’t feel bad, but they’re just a fraction off.”
In a funny turn of events, Mickelson had said there was “zero” chance he would go for the green on the drivable, par-4 17th. That lasted one round. Mickelson took out a driver on Saturday morning and hit into the right front “Big Mouth” bunker. He hit a nice sand shot to 19 feet, but missed the birdie putt.
Rory, Rickie miss the cut
World No. 3 Rory McIlroy’s week came to an ugly end. Needing a par on his last hole, the ninth, to stay in the tournament, the Northern Irishman drove into a fairway bunker, and his next shot hit the grass lip and came back into the sand. He made a double-bogey 6 — his second of the day — shot 71 and finished at 8 over.
After opening with a 77, McIlroy made a strong run early on Saturday, getting to 4 under for the round through seven holes. But he shot 40 on the back, damaged by a four-putt bogey at No. 3.
It was the fifth missed cut in majors for the four-time major winner, including three in the U.S. Open, which he won in 2011.
Playing with McIlroy in a marquee grouping, No. 5 Rickie Fowler fared even worse, shooting 76-75 for an 11-over total. Accuracy is usually Fowler’s strength, but he hit only half the fairways and 20 of 36 greens.
“You look at Dustin [Johnson], he’s probably driven it best, and he’s out front,” Fowler said. “You’re not necessarily having to make a lot of putts just because of how tough the greens are. But if you drive the ball well, you’re able to give yourself more looks, and you’re bound to make something.”
Sweden’s Henrik Stenson, ranked seventh in the world, all but waved a white flag to Oakmont. He was 10 over when play was suspended on Friday and had two holes to play on Saturday morning. He didn’t show up and withdrew, leaving Mickelson and Justin Rose to play on their own. Stenson tweeted, “minor neck and knee issues, nothing Major!”
Winless in majors, Stenson made an eagle in shooting 1 under in the first round and was tied for seventh before his collapse.
Ireland’s Shane Lowry was assessed a one-stroke penalty on the 16th hole when it was deemed that his putter touched his ball before he made his stroke. It was costly, considering he scored 70 and was two shots back of Johnson at the start of the third round instead of one.
The U.S. Golf Assn. made two U.S. Open venue announcements. The event will return to Oakmont in 2025, while Shinnecock Hills in New York has been awarded the ’26 Open, even before it hosts in 2018.