Phil Mickelson had command of the lead for most of the weekend, but he faltered when he reached “The Green Mile,” the last three holes at Quail Hollow Club.
All credit to rookie Derek Ernst for grabbing the victory at the Wells Fargo Championship, but he had some help from Mickelson, who let this one slip through his fingers.
With storms in Sunday’s forecast, tee times were moved up to early in the morning in threesomes off both tees. Phil, who grinded in Saturday’s third round, didn’t make it a secret that he hoped for a wash-out. Despite a silly mistake on the par-5 15th that led to a double-bogey, Mickelson shared the 54-hole lead with Nick Watney.
Phil, who ran away with the Waste Management Phoenix Open in February, was gunning for his 42nd PGA Tour win and looking to join Tiger Woods as a multiple-time champ on Tour in 2013.
It looked like Phil had it just about locked up the W after he birdied the 14th. Instead, he placed third.
A crucial point of the tournament came on the par-5 15th, where he could have shut the door. Mickelson’s second shot on the par-5 15th found the greenside bunker. Then, he hit his sand shot heavy and ended up two-putting for par.
“I felt like if I could get to 10‑under, I would most likely win the tournament, and 15 was a critical hole where I had the good chance with the easy bunker shot exactly where I tried to hit my second shot on that bunker,” said Mickelson after posting his second consecutive one-over 73. “And I hit a poor bunker shot to 12, 15 feet short. I should have never been that far short. The putt was right in the middle of the hole, left it short. And that hole cost me, because going into 16, 17, and 18 you really want to have a couple‑shot advantage. It’s very hard to par those last three. You can still do it. It’s just 16 I missed a short one and 17 three‑putted.”
Phil ran into his nemesis, the Green Mile, where he’s had some trouble on the par-3 17th in the past. In 40 rounds at Quail Hollow, Mickelson is 14-over on the penultimate hole. To put it in perspective, he’s shot par or better in 31 of 40 times.
“There is just no excuse,” said Phil, referring to his late bogeys that cost him the tournament. “It wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary or difficult. I should have made par.”
It’s true, but he got in his own way.
Mickelson had a chance to get into the playoff still with a birdie on the 18th, which only gave up four on Sunday. He knocked it right at the flag and the ball came to rest about 20 feet past the hole on the fringe. He gave it a good run, but it slid past the cup.
This one might sting for just a bit longer than usual.
“I’m pretty bummed out,” he said. “I would have liked to have won this one. I felt like I was in control, and I let it slip away there the last few holes, so it was disappointing.”
(AP Photo/Chuck Burton)