DAVID GREENE, HOST:
The U.S. Open concluded yesterday at the Merion Golf Club, just outside Philadelphia. And for American Phil Mickelson, this was another case of always the bridesmaid, never the bride. Mickelson finished as runner-up at the Open for a record sixth time, despite leading for most of the tournament. In the end, it was England's Justin Rose who took the prize, winning his first major tournament.
And for a recap of all the drama, we reached USA Today sports columnist Christine Brennan, who covered all the action. Hey, Christine.
CHRISTINE BRENNAN: Hey, David. How are you?
GREENE: I'm well, thank you. Probably better than Phil Mickelson. My goodness. He leads all the way through Sunday, and then again finishes second. What is he, cursed or something?
BRENNAN: Yeah, yeah. Oh, Phil. Don't you just - you know, you just go - shake your head. I mean, he shot a 74, four over par on Sunday after, as you said, leading or being tied for the lead all three rounds.
BRENNAN: Instead of rising to the occasion, he made too many mistakes at key times, double-bogeying two of the first five holes, bogeying the shortest hole of the golf course later on.
You know, here it was, his 43rd birthday, Father's Day, his 22nd U.S. Open, three days after flying overnight to get back to Merion after his daughter's eighth grade graduation. It appeared that it would be magical. And instead, as he said afterward, he said, it's very heartbreaking. You know, it's certainly one of his last chances to win the Open. He was in great position - perhaps, you know, that last opportunity that just got away. He'll have many more chances to play the Open, but this was a great opportunity for him.
GREENE: But he handled it gracefully, it sounds like.
BRENNAN: Oh, he's terrific, class act all the way, and signing autographs, David, in the darkness both Saturday and Sunday, dozens and dozens of autographs. Who else does that?
GREENE: Well, so Justin Rose, from England, who actually wins this, I mean, did he do something special to come back yesterday, or was it just about Mickelson's mistakes?
BRENNAN: I think it was also about Rose just playing even par, steady-eddie golf, when everyone else was making mistakes and hitting the ball into the water and out of bounds and doing almost anything else you can imagine you might see on a golf course. So he's a battle-tested, 32-year-old European Ryder Cup player. He shot 70. That's - and then he had a one over par total for the tournament, two shots ahead of, of course, Phil and Jason Day.
And I think he was just - he was really smart about it all. You know, he was patient. He said he had a game plan, and he stuck to it. He wanted to think his way around the difficult golf course, shot by shot, never getting ahead of himself. And he's ranked fifth in the world, lives in Orlando, 14 professional titles. So even though most people hadn't really heard of him, he's not unknown, and this was his time.
GREENE: So someone who a lot of people have heard of, Tiger Woods, did not play steady-eddie golf - using your term - it sounds like. Not a good day for him. Not a good tournament for him.
BRENNAN: No. He never looked comfortable, David. He just - he's the world number one. He finished tied for 32nd. He was 13 over par for the tournament. It was his worst score in relation to par in any major he's ever been in as a professional. He just seemed out of sorts from the get-go. Now, the people who watched noticed he was shaking his left wrist, and he did say his left elbow was bothering him from a tournament a month ago.
But he wasn't using that as an excuse. But he has now gone more than five years without winning a major, and he really has to be asking himself what when wrong.
GREENE: Well, Christine, what about the course itself, Merion, outside Philadelphia? There had been a lot of talk that this course was no longer really up to par to hold a tournament this big.
BRENNAN: That's right. It was established in 1912, which is a long time ago. Fenway Park was open when the Titanic sank, you know, and had not been used for 32 years by the U.S. Golf Association for the U.S. Open. People thought that it just couldn't stand up to today's technologically enhanced players. Well, it did, and having no one under par, no one even at even par was outstanding, because you saw these players humbled.
And it also made it fun because it was a strategy. It was more of a chess match than a game of brute force. We don't see that very often in any sport. It was nice to see the past chalk one up over the present. Historians and purists just had to love it.
GREENE: Sounds like a fun weekend to watch. Christine Brennan, always good to talk to you. Thanks for being here.
BRENNAN: Thank you very much, David.
GREENE: She's sports columnist at USA Today, telling us about the U.S. Open. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.