Major Championship Breakdowns, Part III: The 2006 U.S. Open

Phil Mickelson (above) found disaster at the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot. (Courtesy of Flickr)

Phil Mickelson (above) found disaster at the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot. (Courtesy of Flickr)

We are back for part three of this quarantine exercise, breaking down the back nine of the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, New York, where the U.S. Open will (hopefully) be this September. The 2006 Open was the first U.S. Open championship back at Winged Foot since 1984. The back nine broadcast is available on the USGA app. The broadcast begins with Geoff Ogilvy missing a par putt on 11, and then this leaderboard flashing on the screen:

Phil Mickelson (USA): +4 through (10)

Jim Furyk (USA): +4 (12)

Colin Montgomerie (Scotland): +4 (11)

Geoff Ogilvy (AUS): +4 (11)

Vijay Singh (Fiji): +5 (11)

Padraig Harrington (IRE): +5 (12)

Kenneth Ferrie (ENG): +5 (10)

It then skips right over to Furyk who makes a tricky par at 13, one he backed off from multiple times, to remain tied. He was five back just four holes earlier, and now he is tied for the lead. His playing partner Harrington steps up to his par putt, and makes it to stay one back. 

Now we bounce back to the 11th, where the co-leaders after 54 holes are playing into the green. Kenneth Ferrie and Phil Mickelson were tied at 2-over after Saturday’s rounds, earning spots in the final group. Ferrie had bogeyed seven, eight and 10 to drop to 5-over, while Mickelson had birdied four, then bogeyed five, seven and nine to give away the lead and join the group at 4-over. Ferrie puts his approach into the bunker, but Johnny Miller calls the shot “hole-able.” Mickelson punches his shot up short of the green and lets it skip up to about 10 feet. 

Colin Montgomerie is in the fairway at 12. A par-5 with 283 yards to go. He goes up and over a tree and into a green side bunker. 

Back to Ferrie, who goes for the hole-out birdie and rolls it out to seven feet. Mickelson has his putt for the outright lead and jars it with a huge fist pump. Three majors under his belt, but three second-place finishes in the U.S. Open have him itching for the Father’s Day victory. Coming back from commercial, Ferrie misses the par putt, almost slams his putter into the green in anger and cleans up for bogey. 

Montgomerie leaves a difficult putt up and over the ridge for birdie, which he misses, then cleans up for par at 12. 

Furyk now gives himself a long downhill look at birdie at 14. Miller says Furyk is the “customer Phil’s gotta worry about.” Furyk misses, but taps in for par and stays one back.

Steve Stricker makes his birdie at 13 to drop down to 6-over.

Mickelson misses the fairway off the tee at 12. He was missing fairways all week long, and don’t forget that as it will come up quite big later.

Montgomerie escapes the bunker beautifully at the par-3 13th and makes his par.

Mickelson lays up at 12, the broadcast complimenting his smart play. Throughout his career, he was very well known for being aggressive. 

Ogilvy pars 12 and 13 to stay at 4-over.

Mickelson has a pitching wedge into the green at 12, leaving it just short of the ridge on the green. A two-putt par keeps him at 3-over.

Jim Furyk has a chance to tie Mickelson at 15 from outside 20 feet, but leaves it woefully short, misses that putt as well and drops to 5-over. 

There’s an all-time announcer jinx with Colin Montgomerie at the 14th hole, at time stamp 30:22. “He’s been very good with these” comes through the speakers as he misses a short par putt for his first three-putt of the week. 

Mickelson puts his tee shot into the bunker, then splashes out at 13, leaving about 10 feet for his par, a putt with very little break. He just misses it off the right edge, and he drops back to a tie for the lead at 4-over. 

Mickelson through 13:

Mickelson +4 (13)

Harrington +4 (15)

Ogilvy +4 (13)

Furyk +5 (15)

Montgomerie +5 (14)

Lefty misses another fairway, his eighth of the day, only two for 10 on the day. 

Harrington misses his par putt and drops to 5-over through 16.

Speaking of 5-over, that’s where Montgomerie sits one hole behind Harrington. He hits a great shot into the 15th green from 135 yards and has a really good look at birdie to tie. 

Furyk has a chance to tie the lead and misses.

Ogilvy hits for par at 14 to stay in the lead. He hits a swervy putt down the hill that just misses hitting the cup, and he drops to 5-over. Now Mickelson is back in the solo lead after only hitting one shot.

Mickelson’s approach at 14 bounces softly on the green and stops with a great look inside 10 feet to extend his lead to two. 

Montgomerie misses the birdie putt at 15. With a tap in par, he stays at 5-over.

Mickelson and his caddie Jim “Bones” Mackay take a long look at this birdie putt, the biggest one of the round so far for any player, and Mickelson drills it right in the heart. A two-shot lead with four to play. 

He is looking to become only the second player in the modern era to win three majors in a row, the other being the Tiger Slam in 2000-2001. Mickelson is playing the best golf of his career and the championship that continues to elude him looks to be in his grasp finally. He steps to the tee at 15 with an iron and he hits the fairway … but it rolls into the first cut. Not a bad lie though, and he should have a look at the green.

Montgomerie’s second at 16 now; it just gets over the corner of the bunker and hops to pin high, leaving a birdie putt to get to 4-over. The course is playing so hard, but players are giving themselves opportunities to challenge Mickelson.Ogilvy for birdie up at 15 runs by the hole, leaving a two-footer for par that he makes, two back with three to play for him. 

Mickelson now approaches. He doesn’t get too risky, aiming for the middle of the green and hitting it, a 2-putt par and preservation of the two-shot lead.

Montgomerie misses the birdie putt at 16, so the lead is still two.

Furyk pars 17 and is still at 5-over, while Harrington bogeys to move to 6-over, effectively ending his day.

The leaderboard after Mickelson’s par at 15:

Mickelson: +3 (13)

Furyk: +5 (17)

Montgomerie: +5 (16)

Ogilvy: +5 (15)

Harrington: +6 (17)

Stricker: +6 (16)

Furyk takes the 3 wood at 18. “I think it’s a smart play,” says course analyst Dottie Pepper. He gets an awful bounce off the fairway and has a bad lie on the skirt of the rough. 

Mickelson on the tee at 16 takes the driver. His shot doesn’t cut and ends up in the trees but gets a nice lie in the rough. 

Ogilvy hacks out of the rough to the front of the green, hits a great chip and looks at par at 16. He makes it to stay two back.

“I can’t say anyone has played a great 2006 U.S. Open,” says Johnny Miller, tearing off the filter as he usually does. 

Furyk hooks it way left into a bunker, birdie dreams dead. He’ll just hope to make par and get in the clubhouse at 5-over. 

Montgomerie is in the trees at 17, and he gets it out, skipping it onto the green 75 feet from the pin. 

Mickelson is in the shin-deep rough on the right side of the 16th fairway and hits his approach about 20 yards short of where he was aiming. It’s a fried egg in the face of the bunker, a nearly impossible shot. Mickelson is going to need all of that 2-stroke cushion. 

Furyk just misses a par putt after a nice sand shot, and he cards a 6-over 72-hole total.

Mickelson hacks at the ball up in the face and barely gets it out. He is off the green, laying three. 

Montgomerie steps up to his putt and hits “the putt of the championship” as he holes the 75-footer to get to 4-over. It swings way out left and falls into the cup, a truly unbelievable putt.

Mickelson decides to putt from off the green, misses it right and bangs home the four-footer for bogey. Not bad considering that awful lie.

Mickelson through 16:

Mickelson: +4 (16)

Montgomerie: +4 (17)

Ogilvy: +5 (16)

Furyk: +6 (Even)

The 18th is one of the hardest holes on the course. Only one player in the top ten, Mike Weir, made a birdie at the 72nd. Either Mickelson or Montgomerie are going to need a birdie or hope the other one collapses. 

Mickelson misses this fairway again at 17, way over the gallery into the trees. “I’d be using the 4 wood if I was him,” says Miller as Mickelson continues spray drives.

Montgomerie steps up to what Dan Hicks calls the biggest tee shot of his life. He absolutely smokes one right down the middle with the driver. With Mickelson in the woods and Montgomerie in the fairway, this is looking to be the day Montgomerie finally does it.

But you can’t forget about the Aussie. Geoff Ogilvy has been lurking around the top of the leaderboard all afternoon and sparks a roar from the crowd when he chips in for par at 17 to stay at 5-over. 

Mickelson finds his ball way left of the 17th fairway inside a trash can. Yes, inside a trash can. He got a free drop and had 181 yards to the flag with his second. A par is very much still achievable. He flies it to the front of the green and rolls it up to the middle. Another missed fairway and another remarkable recovery for Mickelson. 

Back to 18. Montgomerie has 171 yards in the middle of the fairway with a clean look at the green. He switches clubs at the last minute, a classic sign of overthinking. “What kind of shot is that?” is one of the all-time on-the-course lines picked up by a microphone. He leaves it short and right of the green, not giving himself a lot of room to work with on the green.

At 17, Mickelson has a long birdie putt he leaves about three feet short. He cleans up for par and moves on to the 18th tee.  

Ogilvy, coming off another par at 17, hits one perfectly in the fairway at 18. With Montgomerie’s troubles ahead of him, a par puts him in a great position to get into a playoff at least.

Montgomerie is buried in the rough with a large mound between him and the flag. He pops it up, and the ball goes way over the flag. It was just about as good as it could have been, but it leaves a long putt for par, like he made just one hole ago. He misses it left and long, way long. It rolls out to about 10 feet. “It is difficult to watch when you think about all the close calls,” says Hicks as Montgomerie lines up his bogey putt. He misses that one and taps in for a double bogey.

Montgomerie is finished:

Mickelson: +4 (17)

Ogilvy: +5 (17)

Montgomerie: +6 (+1)

Furyk: +6 (Even)

Ogilvy’s drive lands in a sand-filled divot, which is far from ideal. From 145 yards, he gets just a little bit under it, and it rolls off the front of the green. A tough up-and-down awaits. 

He hits it left. Way left. As in…

Off. The. Hospitality. Tent. One of the crazier things that has ever happened in Phil Mickelson’s crazy U.S. Open career. Instead of taking Johnny Miller’s advice and using the 4 wood, Mickelson pulls the driver and pushes it left, hitting the hospitality tent and skipping into the gallery. He knows what the situation was too, as the scoreboard just off the 17th green has updated Montgomerie’s score. A par wins the U.S. Open. And he has missed another fairway. 

Up ahead, Ogilvy spins his chip within 10 feet and gives himself a chance at the championship. This is the absolute shot of his life. He makes the par and heads to the clubhouse 5-over.

Mickelson locates the ball sitting on the patted down part of the rough. Mickelson and Bones discuss how to attack the shot and decide to go for the hole. He just misses his line, and it hits a tree in front of him and bounces back into the rough. In years after, Mickelson would say the shot from this hole that he regrets is not the drive, as Johnny Miller continues to eviscerate him for the club choice, but the second shot. If he had punched out sideways and taken his medicine, he would have had a much better look at par. The third shot flies over the green into the bunker on the left side of the green. Another fried egg. He has to get up and in for the playoff. 

Johnny Miller gets his feelings across: “You couldn’t have worse decisions, I think, on this hole. I don’t care who you are, I know you all love Phil, but c’mon. You just have to make par on this hole. You can hit 2 iron, 3 iron off the tee, another long iron onto the green, two putt and say ‘see ya later.’ You don’t have to run down the last stretch on a white stallion. You can limp in there and say, ‘thanks for the trophy.’”

“Let’s go Phil” chants commence as he takes a look at his bunker shot. The shot rolls off the far side of the green into the rough, making it all but official. He hacks it out of the rough and doesn’t even scare the hole. Geoff Ogilvy is the U.S. Open Champion.

One of the most wild, shocking and heartbreaking U.S. Open finishes of all time, especially knowing that Mickelson still has not conquered the championship. 

“One of the worst collapses in U.S. Open history by Phil Mickelson,” says Johnny Miller.