Something worth seeing

Published 9:55 pm Tuesday, June 23, 2009

It’s too bad that rain ravaged the U.S. Open last week, because from what I heard, a year’s worth of dramatic plots deserved an honest Sunday afternoon stage.

Of course, the tournament started and — and even with Lucas Glover winning — ended with Phil Mickelson. Mickelson was playing for the first time since his wife Amy was diagnosed with cancer and was told she would need surgery.

The best way to sum up how the New York gallery, the media, TV viewers and his competitors felt for Mickelson was exhibited by Hunter Mahan on the 18th green.

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Mahan had his own chances to be in contention for the win, but like everyone else Monday, he fell victim to Bethpage Black, with the final straw being bogeys on holes 16 and 17.

Mahan, likely in an ugly mood otherwise, joined the New York crowd in their ovation for Mickelson on the final hole.

“(I) can’t imagine what he’s going through, what he’s thinking right now. He played so hard,” Mahan said.

Then there was Ricky Barnes. At one point, Barnes was supposed to be a new star — a young, athletic, talented guy who might rival Tiger. Well, a little bit — maybe.

Then, as so often happens in golf, Barnes fell off the competitive stage.

Through 42 holes this week, “talented” couldn’t begin to describe the zone Barnes was in. While Bethpage Black was supposed to swallow the world’s best golfers whole, Barnes became the fourth golfer ever to reach double-digits under par in a U.S. Open. At 10-under through six holes into his third round, Barnes had scored only one bogey in 42 holes.

The course, the moment, just being human — whatever it was — caught up with him, though, and Bethpage Black gained its revenge the rest of the way against Barnes.

Speaking of coming from nowhere, everyone who remembered David Duval also knew he had disappeared from pro golf for the better part of a decade.

Duval entered the U.S. Open ranked No. 882 in the world. His best finish in a tournament this season was 55th place. In January, in a PGA Tour event, the FBR Open, Duval shot 77, then went four-over-par through six holes of his second round, and then withdrew. Duval missed the cut at last week’s PGA event, giving him nine missed cuts this season.

Yet this week, Duval was the most consistent golfer in the field. Other than Barnes, Duval turned in the most exciting display of the tournament by birdying Nos. 14, 15 and 16 in the final round for one last charge.

With all that, poor Lucas Glover won the tournament, a U.S. Open to go with his one other PGA Tour victory.

In 32 rounds in major tournaments, Glover had posted one round in the 60s. He had never made a U.S. Open cut. He went through sectional qualifying to make the field this year. His best finish in any major was tied-for-20th at the Masters in 2007. After nearly making the 2006 U.S. Ryder Cup team (top 10 in points on tour over roughly two years) Glover had slumped to 108th on the tour money list before Monday.

I’m sure there’s a very interesting personal story about Glover’s win, too, but with Mickelson and Duval it’s understandable there was no time for it on ESPN or NBC.

One last postscript on Mickelson, who though a fan favorite, has not always had the gentlest touch: After his fifth runner-up finish in a U.S. Open, and with everything else that had to be on his mind at the end of the day Monday, here’s how he finished the tournament.

According to ESPN.com’s Gene Wojciechowski, “Other players made a beeline for the courtesy car lot; Mickelson signed autographs.”

To fans in the parking lot, as Mickelson was leaving, he said, “Thanks for a great week, guys.”