Lefty's self-proclaimed "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity" to hoist his first U.S. Open trophy evaporated Saturday on the 13th hole at Torrey Pines, one of the city-owned golf courses on which he scurried around with his dad until it was pitch black all those years ago.
Mickelson's meltdown came on the par-5, 539-yard hole where the pin teasingly hugged the front of the green.
After relenting and putting his driver in the bag for the first time Saturday, it turned out to be a wedge - four of them to reach the 13th green from 80 yards - that sent him to a quadruple-bogey 9 and out of contention.
After his first try with his lob wedge spun back, Mickelson switched to his 64-degree wedge, and the third try with that one finally reached the green, only to have his three-putt complete the collapse. He carded 76, putting him at 9-over heading into today.
"Well, gosh, it's a birdie hole," Mickelson said. "And here I was 1-over-par. I felt like, if I could get birdie there on 13, I could get back to even for the day. And over par's going to win. I felt like, gosh, one or two coming in, I would be right there. And so that's obviously a bummer."
Mickelson didn't lose any more ground after that, nor did he lose his sense of humor.
"Hitting driver just threw me off," cracked Mickelson, who ditched his sand wedge Saturday along with his failed philosophy of traversing the longest course in major championship history without a driver in the bag.
"But again, it's a great pin. It's just a great pin that will entice guys to get a little bit close. And certainly that's what I did on my first shot."
Added Mickelson: "The other two were just poor. But the first shot had a good chance of being close and making birdie, and it just came back down."
Later, Ernie Els also watched his wedge shot trickle back down. Unlike Mickelson, his second try reached the green, and he survived with bogey.
Mickelson had waited a lifetime for the U.S. Open to come to his backyard, and in the blink of an eye those lifelong dreams were dashed.
Ninety minutes later, he held his head high and his chin up.
He had done that on 13 before.
"I was 8 years old," he said, "but I have had a 9 there."