US Open 2013: Phil Mickelson describes losing out to Justin Rose as 'heart breaking'

The American finished runner-up for the sixth time

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The Independent Online

Omens are only ever a retrospective pointer. Reality has a way of debunking myth in the most merciless manner. Just ask Phil Mickelson, a golfer negotiating the heartbreak of a sixth near miss at his national championship on a day when the stars were supposedly aligned for him.

Mickelson is America's most popular golfer. The galleries love his attachment to risk, his willingness to have a go, to conjure the shot that mortals don't even think to play. He led at the end of every round at Merion, apart from the one that mattered. It seemed that Sunday was made for him, his 43rd birthday and Father's Day in a week in which he had demonstrated his paternal credentials with a return trip to California to attend his daughter's graduation.

But this is sport, not soap opera. Though we often confuse the two, Merion snapped us out of our fatalistic fix and dumped on Mickelson yet more US Open disappointment. He admits he may never have a better chance to tick this box. "For me it's heart breaking. This could have been a really big turnaround on how I look at the US Open, the tournament that I'd like to win.

"Playing very well here and really loving the golf course, I felt heading in that this week was my best opportunity, certainly the final round, the way I was playing and the position I was in. It gave me chances to make birdies. I didn't really make any, but there was opportunity after opportunity.

"This one's probably the toughest for me, because at 43 and coming so close five times, it would have changed the way I look at my record. If I had won or if I ultimately win, I'll look back at the other Opens and think that it was positive. If I never get the Open, then every time I think of it, I just think of heartbreak."

Mickelson has four majors to his credit, three Masters titles and the US PGA. He is to Tiger Woods what Andre Agassi was to Pete Sampras, an entertainer who at his peak was a victim of the relentless if mirthless approach of the era's defining player.

Agassi fashioned a response with late major wins at the back end of his career when Sampras began to fade. It might be that Mickelson has a couple left in him, but, as he acknowledged here, he might not be afforded a better opportunity.