Sure footing lost

Mickelson self-destructs

Ogilvy is handed title

June 19, 2006|By STEVE ELLING | STEVE ELLING,ORLANDO SENTINEL

MAMARONECK, N.Y. -- Geoff Ogilvy won the 106th U.S. Open last night while watching television, pacing back and forth in the scoring area, watching an almost laughable tableau play out before him.

He first was thinking about losing by a shot, then when a playoff seemed possible, he realized his plane flight and hotel reservation would need to be changed. The 29-year-old was just as stupefied, slack-jawed and shocked as anybody when somebody in a blue blazer handed him a trophy about 15 minutes later.

The young Aussie didn't so much claim the Open as inherit it, winning with a total of 5-over par after superstars Phil Mickelson and Colin Montgomerie stumbled in spectacular fashion to hand him the trophy on the catastrophic 72nd hole.

"I think I was the beneficiary," Ogilvy said, "of a little bit of charity."

Like the Red Cross. Bandages included.

A few years back, when the winning Open total at Winged Foot was 7-over, an author dubbed the week the Massacre at Winged Foot. This time around was more like self-inflicted pain. Talk about double trou- ble - Mickelson and Montgomerie both made sixes on the last, raising eyebrows with throat-constricting shots they hadn't come close to hitting all week.

Both Mickelson and Montgomerie could have won the title with a par on the par-4 18th hole, or forced a playoff with a mere bogey. Instead, they belly-flopped into an ocean of questionable decisions and poor execution.

For Mickelson, the calamity was particularly hard to swallow. Two shots clear of the field with three holes to go, he bogeyed No. 16 and could have won outright with a par on the 18th. After receiving rave reviews for his course management in winning back-to-back majors entering the Open, he pulled out his driver on the last tee and hit a horrible slice onto the roof of a hospitality tent.

His next shot, a 3-iron, sailed dead into the trees and ricocheted right back into his footprints, and his third shot plugged in a greenside bunker. When he failed to salvage a bogey from the sand, he was almost inconsolable, having committed the greatest 18th-hole meltdown at a major since Frenchman Jean Van de Velde blew a three-stroke lead at the British Open in 1999.

He will have a hard time defending this particular decision: Mickelson selected a driver on the tee despite the fact that he had sent fans diving for cover all day, hitting only two fairways in regulation. Thus, instead of heading to the British Open next month in search of his fourth major championship in succession, Mickelson wanted to drown himself in the Atlantic.

"I, I still am in shock that I did that," Mickelson said softly, shaking his head. "I am such an idiot. I couldn't hit a fairway all day. I can't believe I didn't par the last hole."

Ogilvy, a promising player who won the World Match Play Championship earlier this year and entered the week at No. 17 in the world rankings, became the first Aussie to win a major since 1995 and only the second ever to win the American national championship, after David Graham's victory in 1981.

He chipped in from 20 feet to save par on the 17th hole, but it didn't look all that meaningful at the time. But with Montgomerie falling apart in the group in front of him and Mickelson about to likewise in the group behind, it quickly grew tense. One shot back and convinced that he needed a birdie on the 18th to win, Ogilvy split the fairway, but his approach came up short of the green.

"I thought, `OK, we'll get this one up and down and I'll lose by a shot,' " he said. "That's what I thought."

It was Mickelson's first double bogey of the week. He actually appeared physically ill afterward, and given that he had just finished second at the Open for the fourth time without a victory, it was understandable.

"This one hurts more than any tournament, because I had it won," Mickelson said. "I had it in my grasp and let it go."

Steve Elling writes for the Orlando Sentinel.

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