FARMINGDALE, N.Y. - Phil Mickelson had left the New York area with his heart broken three times after coming up short of his first U.S. Open championship.
While he finished second again yesterday - for the fifth time in his career and the second time at Bethpage Black - Mickelson didn't seem as dejected. Indeed, he has a much larger matter on his mind: the impending start of his wife Amy's treatments for breast cancer.
"I think it's more in perspective for me," Mickelson said after a closing 72 left him in a three-way tie for second, 2 strokes behind champion Lucas Glover. "I feel different this time."
Mickelson then paused, the competitor in him seeping out.
"I don't know where to go with this," he said. "I want to win this tournament badly. This is now my fifth second. I play well in this event, and I enjoy this event. It's a challenge for me because it's difficult off the tee. It's not easy to get up and down around the greens. But the way the courses have been set up the last couple of years, I feel I'll have more chances."
Amy Mickelson's cancer was diagnosed last month, and her treatment begins July 1. Her husband has said that the U.S. Open would be his last event for a while, meaning he likely will miss the British Open in the middle of next month, breaking a streak of 61 majors dating to 1994.
The boisterous crowds at Bethpage, which were in Mickelson's corner in 2002 when he finished second to Tiger Woods, cheered even louder for him over the past week, nearly every member seeking to will his ball into the hole. The 39-year-old lefthander acknowledged the crowd with a tip of his cap or a thumb's-up gesture.
Certainly, Mickelson gave himself a chance to write a storybook ending, particularly on the back nine of what he has called one of his favorite courses.
He hit an amazing third shot from a dirt roadway to two feet to save par at the 10th hole and birdied No. 12 with a 30-foot putt. When he canned a 4-foot putt for eagle 3 at the 13th, he had overcome a 6-stroke deficit at the start of the round to pull into a tie for the lead with Glover at 4-under.
But it wasn't to be for Mickelson - again.
He left himself with a tricky 3-foot downhill putt for par at the tough 15th, which he missed. Glover bogeyed the same hole two groups later to fall into a tie at 3-under, but Mickelson came up short of the green with his tee shot at the par-3 17th and couldn't convert a 6-footer for par.
When Glover birdied No. 16 moments later, Mickelson was done, left with only a long birdie chance at 18 that didn't find the hole.
"I played the putt [on 15] for a lot less break than it did," he said. "I just thought it was going to stop breaking, and it broke a little more. The one on 17 was not a good putt. It was slightly uphill, and I didn't hit it firm enough at all."
The cheers rang in Mickelson's ears one last time as he walked up the hill off the 18th green to the scoring area, but at 278 for 72 holes, he was 2 strokes shy of where he wanted to be.
"It was a lot of ups and downs for me," he said. "A lot of birdies, a lot of bogeys, fighting to get into it, back out, back in. It was kind of an emotional four or five days."
With his second-place finish, Mickelson broke a tie with some of the great names in golf - Bobby Jones, Sam Snead, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer - for the most ever, although all but Snead won at least one Open. New York has been especially cruel - two at the Black course, one at Shinnecock Hills in 2004 and one at Winged Foot in 2006, to go with his Pinehurst second in 1999.
This one, however, probably didn't hurt so much, even though he won't have a silver U.S. Open trophy to take home to cheer up his wife.
"I put myself in great position to close it out," he said. "Unfortunately I didn't pull it off. Now that it's over, I've got more important things going on."