This is without a doubt, one of my favorite sports images in golf history. If you are a golf fan, this image is almost as definitive as the day President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. An aging Payne Stewart consoling a young Phil Mickelson after sinking a 15 foot par putt and snatching the first of six US Opens away from the youngster.
If I remember, Payne told Phil in this moment, there will be more chances for you in the future. It would be Payne’s final moment for glory. Little did we know that at the top of his game, this would be Payne Srewat’s final US Open win, and his final tournament. Stewart was killed in a plane crash five months later, and this would be the last of his 11 PGA Tour wins.
Although Phil Mickelson has went on to surpass Payne Stewarts 11 PGA TOUR wins, and his three major championships, he still hasn’t been able to surpass this moment. He’s been close five more times, but has never held the trophy in his hand.
This year, the US Open returns to Pinehurst Number Two, and maybe Phil Mickelson can end the curse where it started. He will have to contend with Tiger Woods, Henrik Stenson, and a host of great tour players if he wants to get back to the moment depicted above. One thing is certain, Payne Stewart will not stop him this time.
The 1999 US Open at Pinehurst was a typical layout. Payne Stewart was the only player in the field that was under par, and Phil finished in second place at even par. After finishing the second round in a tie for the lead with Phil, and David Duval, Stewart was able to get a one stroke lead to carry into the weekend.
After Stewart made a bogey at the 12th hole on Sunday, Phil actually had a one-shot lead. He followed with birdie at 13 to get the score tied until he made yet another bogey at 15. Then Phil bogeyed the 16th hole, and when Stewart birdied 17, Phil’s fate was in the hands of Payne Stewart at 18. And we still talk about the 15 foot putt Stewart made to win.
Vijay Singh and Tiger Woods had chances down the stretch, but ended their day tied for third place at one over par.
Payne Stewart had led the 1998 US Open at the Olympic Club for three rounds, but lost a five shot lead to Lee Janzen to finish in second place.
It only took Stewart one year to avenge his loss at the Olympic Club. It’s been 15 years, but maybe 2014 is the year Phil Mickelson can get this monkey off his back, and give us a different picture to remember him by.