Phil Mickelson anticipating 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst 'too much'

Stanley Chou

Pinehurst No. 2 holds special memories for Phil Mickelson, who came up just short of Payne Stewart in the 1999 U.S. Open, the first of six runner-up finishes for the popular southpaw.

Phil Mickelson has made no secret of his yearning to fill the void in his trophy room with the simple ear-handled silver ewer that goes to the winner of the U.S. Open. The five-time major champion conceded earlier this week that he may want the no-name trinket -- the only one missing from his collection of three green jackets, a Claret Jug and a Wanamaker Trophy -- just a tad too much.

"I have a bit of a concern about Pinehurst [No. 2] because I’m almost looking forward to it too much," Mickelson told Tod Leonard on Monday during an appearance at the Freedom to Live charity golf tournament in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.

The second of next year’s four major-title bouts will take place at the North Carolina site of Payne Stewart's memorable 1999 Open win, which happened to coincide with the first of a record six heartbreaking runner-up finishes for Mickelson.

"It would mean a lot to me to have it take place in that setting. That close call there, when my good friend Payne Stewart made that putt and said those emotional things to me," Mickelson said about the 11-time PGA Tour winner, who died at the age of 42 in a plane crash four months after his Pinehurst victory. "To come back and possibly win my first U.S. Open there, I don’t even know how to say how important that would be."

In their famous ’99 tilt, Mickelson and Stewart went shot for shot down the stretch and got to the 18th tee at even and 1-under, respectively. After Lefty failed to drill a match-tying 20-footer for birdie on the final hole, Stewart converted his 15-foot par putt and sewed up his third, and final, major.

Even more memorable, perhaps, than the way the duel ended, was Stewart seizing Mickelson’s face in his hands and consoling the first-time father-to-be by saying, "You’re  going to be a father!"

Mickelson, who will reflect on his British Open-winning 2013 season with Golf Channel’s "Morning Drive" hosts on Friday morning, expressed assurance that he would one day win the U.S. Open.

"Whether it’s at Pinehurst or Chambers Bay the following year, or what have you, I do believe it will come shortly," he said. "I’ve come close in that event and played it so well for so many years, I feel like it’s just a matter of time."

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